Archdiocese Pays $5 Million to Abuse Victims

By Pat Kinney
Globe Gazette [Iowa]
February 21, 2006

WATERLOO — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque has agreed to pay $5 million to 20 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, attorneys for those individuals and the archdiocese announced today.

Several of the priests served parishes in North Iowa, including Mason City.

It is the largest average settlement per client —$250,000 — in the state to date, attorneys Chad Swanson and Tom Staack of Waterloo said. They are handling all current outstanding filed suits against the archdiocese.

Additionally, the archdiocese has agreed to pay for up to 12 therapy or counseling sessions for victims and spouses by year's end.

The settlement was announced in separate press conferences today, by Stack and Swanson and their clients in Waterloo, and the archdiocese in Dubuque.

Staack and Swanson said 15 pending lawsuits against the archdiocese will be dismissed, as well as five other claims for which no formal civil suit had yet been filed.

The settlement was reached between victim attorneys and the archdiocese in negotiations with a mediator Thursday and Friday in Dubuque.

The archdiocese also agreed to several non-economic items, including:

— The archdiocese will post on its Web site "all church personnel accused of sexual abuse of minors when such accusations have been proven in a court of law, or found to be true through a criminal investigation, or investigated by the (Archdiocesan) Review Board after an outside non-criminal investigation, or admitted by the person in connection with the settlement of a civil lawsuit."

— The archdiocese will allow any of Swanson's or Staack's clients "the opportunity to speak at their home parish or in the parish where they were abused following a Sunday Mass" upon signing a release with the archdiocese. Staack indicated some of his and Swanson's clients want that opportunity.

— Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus "will send private letters of apology" to the alleged victims, "and he will cause a written public apology to be released to the media expressing and offering support for all 20 (alleged victims) and their families, and for all other survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Archdiocesan church personnel."

— Hanus will meet individually with any of the victims at any time in the future.

Staack and Swanson said the $5 million settlement will be distributed privately among their 20 clients according to the nature and extent of abuse suffered by each victim "and the impact that the abuse has had on their lives as survivors."

However, they added, "rather than focus on the lump-sum payment made to this group of survivors, it is more important for the public to see that the archdiocese has agreed to take steps to further the healing process of these people."

"We have very few of our clients left in the Catholic Church," Swanson said.

Priests identified

The suits and claims involve allegations against nine priests, in alleged incidents from 1954 through 1978. All but one of the priests are deceased, and the one living — the Rev. William T. Schwartz — was defrocked in December by Pope Benedict XVI. Three cases are still pending against Schwartz individually. Schwartz served churches in Rockwell, Cartersville and Swaledale from 1982-89 and in Clarion from 1989-92.

Others cited are:

John Schmitz, who served in Mason City from 1965-70 and in Greene from 1979-82; Albert Carman, who served in Manly from 1968-71; William Goltz, who served in Stacyville from 1953-54, in Hampton and Dumont from 1971-73 and in Elma in 1966; and Patrick McElliott, John Peters and William Roach.

Two other priests were accused but lawsuits have not been filed: Fathers Julius Olinger and Robert Reiss, both of whom are also deceased.

Victims react

"It was a long year for me," said Dr. Donald Schmit of Waterloo, an alleged victim of Schwartz at St. Joseph's from the 1960s.

"It's my opinion that it took an awful lot of digging to get the information" on the alleged incidents, "and I don't feel they (archdiocesan officials) have really wanted to give up any of this information," Schmit said.

"I was certainly willing to go along with what the lawyers and mediator felt was a fair solution," Schmit said. But he added, "My feelings about the church have changed this past year. I have basically lost trust in the church. I'm still a Catholic. It's just, having learned what I learned, it's really changed my trust in the church and my church leaders."

"I'm happy that these lawsuits are coming to an end, but I'm sad that it had to come to this," said former Waterloo resident Joseph Faucher, now living in California, who alleged he was abused by Schwartz in the late 1970s at Columbus.

There are "untold numbers" of additional abuse victims, Faucher said. "By now, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Catholic hierarchy has known about his abuse...and engaged in a systematic cover-up that exposed even more children to abuse.

"I hope that the American Catholic bishops understand the damage that's been done to countless lives, and that the magnitude of this settlement will cause the church to recommit itself to earning the trust of millions of good Catholics --- including honorable priests and nuns --- who deserve better from their church's leaders."


Public Apology

February 21, 2006

To those who as minors were sexually abused by priests of the Archdiocese of Dubuque:

I write first of all to you who participated in the recent settlement with the Archdiocese. I also write to your spouses and to the members of your families. In addition, I include all survivors who as minors suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by any Church personnel.

Personally, and insofar as I can speak in the name of the entire Archdiocese, I express my profound sorrow for what you have endured. I apologize for what these priests did to you. What they did was heinous, awful, horrendous, and cries to heaven for vengeance.

For you who shared in the settlement, it is my hope that this support may give you some sense of affirmation, justification, and validation. You may not have been believed in the past. You may have felt alone and abandoned. You may need the help of counseling and therapy.

To your spouses and to other members of your families, I offer an assurance of my sorrow, my prayers, and my apology. Thank you for standing by the member of your family who was abused.

For all of you I pray that the trust you had in God, if it has been weakened or destroyed, may be restored. I hope and pray that trust in a Church which has failed you may not be lost forever. If and when you are ready, we would be blessed by your return.

I stand ready to meet with you if you desire. I want you to know that I encourage all our parishes to include victims and survivors of sexual abuse in their prayers. We must all be compassionate and understanding and supportive.

My appreciation and gratitude extend to you for having the courage to come forward. You help all of us address the suffering which sexual abuse brings. You help us recommit ourselves to the task of making the way safe for all God's children in today's churches, families, and the world.

Please pray for me as I do for you.
Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, O.S.B.
Archbishop of Dubuque


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