|Diocese Withheld Details of Abuse, Critics Say
The Rev. Phillip Hobt Was a Teacher in Council Bluffs before Being Suspended
By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
April 18, 2007
Advocates for victims of priest abuse on Tuesday blasted the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines for failing to reveal important facts about allegations against the Rev. Phillip Hobt, a former teacher and priest at St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs.
Bishop Joseph Charron, before he retired last week, asked the Vatican to remove Hobt, 42, from the priesthood, the diocese announced Tuesday.
The diocese received allegations against Hobt in January. He was suspended from ministry in February. After the charges were found to be credible by the diocesan allegation review board, Hobt agreed to submit himself to the Vatican process to remove him from the priesthood, according to Anne Marie Cox, a spokeswoman for the diocese.
However, the diocese declined to say where Hobt is now living or anything about the nature of the abuse.
"If people don't know what age of child he's attracted to, his method of getting close to youngsters or the community he's living in, that's very risky," said David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "He's a young priest. We pray no one else has been hurt, that no witnesses were intimidated and that no evidence has been destroyed."
The facts of the matter are being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, Cox said.
"We want to honor the victim's request," Cox said.
When the diocese suspended Hobt, church officials said they had reported the allegations to law enforcement.
At that time, Council Bluffs police acknowledged that there was a conversation between investigators and diocese officials. But because the abuse apparently took place in a Chicago suburb and outside its jurisdiction, the Council Bluffs department would not investigate.
On Tuesday, Cox said that "there is no investigation by law enforcement" and that Hobt has not been charged with a crime.
"The diocese did not want to interfere with any investigation that law enforcement authorities might want to pursue," Cox said. "The victim did not want to file charges. Without the victim filing charges, law enforcement would not pursue a case."
Brian Osborne, president of St. Albert Schools, said he did not know the details of the abuse complaint.
"The complaint went to the diocese, and they have not shared a lot with me," Osborne said. "In fact, I read in the newspaper that the diocese talked to Council Bluffs police and that they weren't going to pursue it."
In February, Charron told the Catholic Mirror, the diocese newspaper, that the allegation came from the former St. Albert student and "comes as a shock to us. I understand there will be anger and grief among those who have worked closely with Father Hobt. However, our first priority must be in creating a safe environment for children who have been placed in our care."
Steve Theisen, Iowa director for SNAP, said just getting Hobt out of the Council Bluffs school is not enough.
"Hobt is still a danger to children, even after he leaves the priesthood," Theisen said. "If the diocese doesn't let the parishes and communities know where he's residing, parents can't protect their children against him. If he has not been convicted of abuse, his name won't appear on any of the sex offender lists and he doesn't have to register with local police."
Hobt was ordained in 1992 and served for three years at St. Augustin Catholic Church in Des Moines before being assigned to St. Albert.
"We hope anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced inappropriate behavior or crimes by Father Hobt will find the strength to contact law enforcement officials, not church officials, immediately," Clohessy said.
Religion Editor Shirley Ragsdale can be reached at (515) 284-8208 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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