Dubuque Diocese to Pay out $5 Million
Twenty People Will Share a Total of $5 Million. a Lawyer Says Healing Is Even More Important

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
February 22, 2006

The Dubuque archdiocese on Tuesday became the second Iowa Catholic district to approve a multimillion-dollar settlement to a group of men and women who were child victims of sexually abusive priests.

Archbishop Jerome Hanus approved payment of a total of $5 million to 20 people. He also issued public and private apologies to victims and agreed to make public the names of all church personnel against whom allegations of sexual abuse of minors have been "sustained."

The agreement, reached through private mediation, was announced by Waterloo attorneys Thomas Staack and Chad Swanson. It is the second agreement between abuse survivors and a Catholic diocese in Iowa. The first was reached in October 2004 when the Davenport Diocese agreed to pay $9 million to 37 men who said they were sexually abused by priests.

The Dubuque settlement has a larger per-client average — $250,000 — but the attorneys said the archdiocese's efforts to "further the healing process for abuse survivors" was more significant.

"The process has been difficult but healing for my clients," Swanson said. "The settlement has a positive result to all those who are still living. Two of my clients died during the process."

The archdiocese will post on the diocese's Web site the names of all priests, living and dead, against whom allegations of abuse have been sustained. The criteria for listing abusive priests include: allegations against church personnel that are proven in a court of law; allegations found to be true through a criminal investigation; allegations sustained by the archdiocese sexual abuse review board; and allegations admitted by the accused in connection with the settlement of a civil lawsuit.

In exchange for the settlement, 15 pending lawsuits and five claims against the archdiocese will be dropped. The first of those lawsuits was to go to trial March 7 in Dubuque County. The plaintiffs are 12 men and eight women.

Debbie Gindhart, 57, of Indianapolis attended the press conference. She allegedly was sexually abused in 1963 by the Rev. Patrick McElliott, her parish priest. Tuesday was her birthday, and she expressed a sense of rebirth, thanks to the settlement.

"I feel very liberated today," she told the Associated Press.

Gindhart said she reported the abuse to a friend the day it happened.

"I always felt the archbishop protected priests and not the parishioners," Gindhart said.

The settlement will be paid from the Dubuque Archdiocesan Protection Program, a self-insurance program, according to Hanus.

And as agreed on in the settlement, Hanus issued a personal apology to the abuse victims.

"I apologize for what these priests did to you," Hanus wrote. "What they did was heinous, awful, horrendous, and cries to heaven for vengeance."


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