Group Meets with Catholic Bishops

February 2, 2006

DAVENPORT - They stood outside the Iowa State Capitol with a message for the Catholic Church. Some were carrying pictures of boys who say they were abused by priests. Some were carrying signs saying more abusive priests could be other there.

What the outside gathering sdidn't show was something organizers say is truly historic: after standing outside the Capiol steps, they met with the leaders of Iowa's four Catholic dioceses including Davenport Bishop William Franklin.

"We think that that should be a given: that they would want to talk with survivors, they would want to talk with lay people and find out how we all believe the church is handling the situation," said DeWitt resident Ann Green. Green, who is married to a man who said he was abused by a Catholic priest, is also an organizing member of "Catholics for Spiritual Healing".

The group fears some of the church's past mistakes may be repeated themselves still today.

In particular, the case against retired Bishop Larence Soens. Once part of both the Davenport and Sioux City diocese, Soens faces at least nine allegations of sexual abuse. The Davenport diocese paid 20-thousand dollars to settle one claim.

The Catholic activists who met with the bishops Thursday say more should be done to inform church-goers about Soens. They promise to keep the issue in the spotlight.

"The abusers will be aware that they are being, for a lack of a better word, 'policed' and it may draw attention to them," said "Catholics for Spiritual Healing" member Arlene Burke.

The Catholics groups did win one thing: they met with the bishops. A 30-minute planned meeting ran an hour and a half with the bishops saying they will meet with them again. That could be the first chapter in an on-going dialogue.

"The truth will be in their actions," warned Green.

"That's what we're going to have to wait for."

One thing the group says it wants is a stronger stand by the bishops about cases that are still pending. Catholic bishops have always been hesitant to do this saying they must wait for cases to be settled before they case judgment on those accused of such an awful sin.


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