Bishops to Meet with Victims' Groups

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
February 2, 2006

Iowa's four Catholic bishops agreed to meet today with the state's most vocal groups advocating for victims of clergy abuse.

It is believed to be the first time since the U.S. Catholic child sexual abuse scandal exploded in 2002 that a state's entire Catholic hierarchy committed to such a meeting.

Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque, Bishop Joseph Charron of Des Moines, Davenport Bishop William Franklin and Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless agreed Monday to meet with representatives of Iowa Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Catholics for Spiritual Healing of Grand Mound, and Concerned Catholics of the Davenport Diocese.

However, Nickless' mother, E. Margaret Nickless, 77, died Wednesday, causing him to return to Denver, Colo., for her funeral. He will be represented at the meeting by Monsignor Roger J. Augustine, who served as diocesan administrator for two years until the Vatican appointed Nickless.

"The meeting is unprecedented," said David Clohessy, the survivors network national director. "I don't know where it has happened anyplace before."

The meeting is just an extension of the bishop's open invitation to meet with victims, said Anne Marie Cox, spokeswoman for the Des Moines Diocese.

"Bishop Charron has always had an ongoing, open-door invitation to abuse victims, and he has met with the groups before," Cox said. "He has led the way saying he wanted the victims to come forward and that he wanted to meet with them and hear their stories."

The bishops are in Des Moines today to host a legislative breakfast at the Capitol and to celebrate a special Mass for lawmakers.


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