Sioux City Diocese Says It Erred and Will Identify Accused Priests
By Ryan J. Foley
November 6, 2018
An Iowa Roman Catholic diocese released a lengthy statement Tuesday about the revelation that it had covered up a priest's sexual abuse of boys for decades and promised to identify all priests who have faced credible allegations.
The Diocese of Sioux City urged anyone who has ever been abused by one of its priests to report the misconduct. The diocese said it will use all information in its possession to create and publish a list of credibly accused priests, a step it had long resisted.
The diocese's actions come in response to an investigation by the Associated Press, which last week broke the church's 32-year silence on serial abuse by the Rev. Jerome Coyle.
The diocese said more disclosures of misconduct may be forthcoming.
Coyle admitted to then-Bishop Lawrence Soens in 1986 to having sexually abused 50 boys over a 20-year period. The diocese said that it should have notified parishes and asked victims to come forward back then, and apologized that its former leaders failed to do so. Instead, the diocese sent Coyle to a treatment center for accused priests in New Mexico, where he lived and worked as a civilian for decades.
The diocese said that its current leadership should have notified the public this summer when Coyle was placed at a retirement home near a Catholic school, which he moved out of last week following AP's disclosure of his history. But the statement said that its bishop, R. Walker Nickless, "inherited many issues from the past," including the challenge of finding housing for accused priests who were never charged and aren't listed as sex offenders.
|Marian Home and Village, a long-term car facility that admitted pedophile Rev. Jerome Coyle moved into after leaving New Mexico. Coyle no longer, as of Nov. 1, lives at the facility, which is near a school. (Photo: Shelby Fleig/The Register)|
"What do we do with these men? We know that you do not want them in your community. Many care facilities will not, or cannot, take them. Their families sometimes will take them in, but not always," said the statement, issued through diocese spokeswoman Susan O'Brien.
The diocese indicated that other accused priests were sent for treatment, rather than investigated by police, and "we know now that is not the way to handle any allegation of sexual misconduct."
The statement noted that the former bishop, Soens, is now 92 and lives in a Catholic retirement home in Sioux City. After retiring in 1998, he was accused of abusing boys when he was a priest and principal in the 1960s in Iowa City, and the Diocese of Davenport paid settlements to his accusers. The statement said that Soens has not faced any misconduct allegations stemming from his tenure in Sioux City.
As for Coyle, the diocese continues to pay his pension because he is entitled to those benefits by law, the statement said.
The Iowa attorney general's office said it has opened an inquiry into the handling of clergy abuse. Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for Iowa's attorney general, has said his office doesn't have the legal authority to conduct a statewide investigative grand jury like one that recently found 300 "predator priests" had abused 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.
But he said the office is gathering information and examining options for moving forward. His office called on Iowa dioceses to comply with a U.S. Department of Justice request to preserve documents related to abuse and personnel.