Clergy Abuse Expert: Alleged Soens Abuse Is Sadism
Two Men Have Filed Lawsuits Accusing the Former School Principal

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
May 3, 2006

Bishop Lawrence Soens

A national expert on clergy sex abuse said in court documents filed Monday that the allegations against retired Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens could be categorized as sadism.

A sworn statement by A.W. Richard Sipe of La Jolla, Calif., a therapist, researcher and former Benedictine monk, was filed in two Scott County lawsuits against Soens and the Davenport Catholic diocese.

Sipe is listed as an expert witness by Craig Levien, the Davenport attorney for Michael Gould and Dennis Allen, who have filed lawsuits against Soens and the Diocese of Davenport. The men allege they were molested in the 1960s by Soens when they were students and he was principal at Iowa City Regina High School.

"By multiple reports, Soens' persistent habit of painfully twisting, pinching, fondling, massaging or purpling the nipples of male students was commonly known by the students of Regina High School and frequently observed in the hallways of the school," Sipe wrote. " ... Whatever Fr. Soens' motivation in the sexual assaults on minor boys, his behavior was reprehensible and criminal."

Sipe said he could not state with certainty that Soens qualifies for a strict psychiatric diagnosis of sadism. "Nonetheless, Soens' behavior comes under the broad category of sadism since it involves the infliction of pain or humiliation connected with sexual activity."

Rand Wonio, attorney for the Diocese of Davenport, discounted Sipe's affidavit.

"(Sipe) is not a mental health professional that would allow him to express opinions about these matters in court," Wonio said.

Sipe noted that most sexual activity with minors or even between consenting adults takes place behind closed doors, so the fact that the circumstances described in the lawsuits against Soens - that some of the alleged assaults took place in school hallways and were observed by other adults and students - should have caused school and church authorities to launch an investigation.

Soens, who served in various roles in the Quad Cities area before becoming bishop of Sioux City in 1983, remains a cleric in good standing in Iowa, something that has rankled victims' advocates who have repeatedly asked Iowa's four serving Catholic bishops to sanction him.

Wonio said all allegations and court filings concerning Soens have been forwarded to the Vatican.

Soens' attorney, Tim Bottaro, declined to comment.

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