Speaking out against the Diocese
Mason Kerns and Margaret Poe - the Daily Iowan

The Daily Iowan
May 9, 2007

In Iowa City, a group of Catholics meet regularly to discuss the cases of alleged sexual abuse that are wreaking havoc on their church. Members of the Concerned Catholics of the Davenport Diocese - led by community leader and church activist Dorothy Whiston and her husband, UI clinical law Professor John Whiston - recently voted to affiliate themselves with the national organization Voice of the Faithful. The national group's slogan, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church," represents the discontent many church members feel toward the secretive Catholic bureaucracy.

In an October 2006 meeting, the small group - a conglomeration of congregants from Catholic parishes across eastern Iowa - shared their frustration with the pattern of alleged abuse and the diocese's manner of handling it. Moments of silence, even tears, mingled with cynicism about the "holy men" and their accusers during the gathering, which was part support group, part advocacy meeting.

David Hitch, a priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Tipton, Iowa - where Mike Dalton and his wife attend Mass - was the only clergy member present. Despite Hitch's active support for accusers, he said the diocese has never reprimanded him for his actions, which include supporting alleged victims in court, participating in Concerned Catholics functions, and protesting on street corners.

Fellow priests, however, have become upset at his public demonstrations of support for alleged abuse survivors and families, said Hitch, who has worked in the diocese for 38 years.

"They can't understand why I'm siding with these victims against our church," he said.

For Hitch, who said a clergy member abused his brother in the 1960s, offering such support is "the essence of my being a priest." During the civil-rights movement, he walked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in Chicago, he said.

These accusers are his current crusade.

"I'm a priest," he said. "I can't turn my back on evil or the way these folks have been treated. It's not the Christ I've given my life to."

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