Dubuque archdiocese clears former priest in sex abuse allegations

By Katie Wiedemann
July 14, 2015

[with video]

DUBUQUE — The Catholic Archdiocese said it has cleared one of its former priests of sex abuse allegations from the mid-1980s.

Earlier this year, Jeff Buchheit accused Reverend Leo Riley of abusing him while he was an altar boy in 1985. That year, Riley was serving as a Church of the Resurrection associate pastor.

Buchheit made the claims after the statute of limitations had expired, meaning no criminal case was possible. However, any time a priest or former priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is accused of sexual abuse, its Clergy Abuse Review Board investigates. The board draws its members from a wide range of disciplines.

“The head of the review board right now is a judge,” said Archbishop Michael Jackels. “We have former police investigators and people involved in the mental health area.” Jackels added no Archdiocese employees are allowed on the review board.

But the President of Iowa Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) takes issue with one aspect of the board’s composition: the lack of abuse survivors.

“Unless a review board is made up of at least 50 percent survivors, I don’t have much faith in it,” Iowa SNAP director Steve Theisen said.

After Buchheit made his claim in March, the Archdiocese hired a private investigator to interview Buchheit, Riley, Buchheit’s teachers and his classmates. Jackels said Fr. Riley, who has denied the claim, volunteered for and passed a lie-detector test.

The results of those measures show Buchheit’s specific claim is unfounded, Jackels said.

“I am not saying you were not abused, but what I’m saying is I don’t have enough to say it was Fr. Riley who abused you,” the archbishop said.

When asked if he thought someone else had abused Buchheit, Jackels said, “I have no way of saying.”

Buchheit, through his attorney, said he would release a statement on the review board’s findings on Tuesday.

Rev. Riley has been on administrative leave from his position as a pastor in the Diocese of Venice, in Florida, since the allegation was made. A spokesperson for that diocese said it’s Diocesan Review Board will convene to review and provide a recommendation to Bishop Frank Dewane on the matter.



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