Iowa Bishops Meet with Abuse Victim Advocates
By Charlotte Eby
Sioux City Journal [Des Moines IA]
February 3, 2006
DES MOINES -- Advocates for victims who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy members met with Iowa bishops Thursday, asking them to prevent a retired Sioux City bishop accused of sex abuse from participating in church activities.
Former Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens is being sued for alleged sexual abuse, and the groups don't want him around children.
Ann Green of DeWitt said although Soens retired in 1998, he is still operating in an official capacity by celebrating masses in Iowa.
Green is a member of Catholics for Spiritual Healing in Grand Mound, one of three victims' groups that met with Iowa's bishops in Des Moines Thursday in a session they believe is a first of its kind in the country.
Green said it is difficult to determine how bishops are disciplined because they are supervised directly by the pope.
"We were asking the bishops today, as colleagues of Bishop Soens, to step in and ask him to get out of positions of authority within the church," Green said.
The activists want the bishops to send a letter to Soens asking him to have no unsupervised contact with minors and not to participate in any liturgical or church sponsored events.
They're hoping to get a second face-to-face meeting with the bishops this month to discuss a timeline for meeting their demands.
A joint statement was issued by the bishops after the meeting.
"We listened to them, and we have agreed to meet again soon," the statement said. "We will give serious consideration to the requests that were made. The four dioceses of Iowa are committed to the protection of children."
Soens was named in a lawsuit filed in Scott County District Court for allegedly sexually abusing a male student while he was a principal of Regina High School in Iowa City in the 1960s. In October 2004, the Davenport Diocese paid $20,000 to settle an abuse claim against Soens, but other allegations have since followed.
Questions about the meeting directed to the Sioux City Diocese were referred to a spokesman who is unavailable until next week.
The Rev. David Hitch, a priest in the Davenport diocese who is speaking out on behalf of victims after his brother allegedly was abused by his parish priest, said the meeting with the bishops went well.
"We said some rather pointed, blunt things. They seemed to be listening," he said.
Hitch wants to see the bishops become more accountable for what happens so that the truth about abuse can come out.
"As it does, I think we'll be a much better church," he said.
Sioux City Bishop Walker Nickless was unable to attend Thursday's meeting because of the death of his mother. Another representative for the Sioux City Diocese attended.
Green said the meeting with bishops, lay groups and survivors of sexual abuse was unprecedented.
"We were very encouraged by their willingness to speak with us," she said.
Green's husband was a victim of sexual abuse and was one of the 37 cases the Davenport Diocese settled in October 2004 for a total of $9 million.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.