Parish in Pain

By Lyn Jerde
Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]
June 19, 1996

The parents of two teenage boys have told Archdiocese of Dubuque officials that the Rev. Timothy DeVenney had "improperly touched" the boys.

And Dubuque police say they have talked to "more than two" potential victims.

About 200 people - a standing-room-only crowd at Presentation Hall at St. Columbkille Catholic Church - learned this information at a parish meeting Tuesday night.

DeVenney, 32, associate pastor at St. Columbkille for three years, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of police and archdiocesan inquiries.

Assistant Police Chief Terry Lambert said today that the Iowa Department of Human Services contacted police Thursday about one "allegation of inappropriate sexual contact" by DeVenney with a "juvenile male."

Subsequent investigation, Lambert said, resulted in police identifying more than the two potential victims who have contacted the archdiocese.

DeVenney has been not been charged, Lambert said, and his arrest is not imminent.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact police at 319/589-4460, 589-4467 or 589-4439.

Monsignor David Wheeler, vicar-general for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, said DeVenney's removal is in accordance with the archdiocese's sexual misconduct policy, which calls for removal of a priest or any church official from duties as soon as accusations are made.

It is not, he said, an indication of guilt or innocence.

"One of my concerns," he said, "is that we might come to judgment prematurely."

Wheeler said the parents of the two youths have given him permission to disclose that the boys are "beyond the age of puberty," and that each set of parents made the allegations separately.

Wheeler said he could not disclose the location of the alleged incidents nor whether they were purported to have happened at the same time.

And, he said, he can't tell DeVenney's side of the story.

DeVenney spoke to archdiocesan officials, Wheeler said, in the presence of an ecclesiastical attorney, who is versed in church law.

"Yes, I was involved in talking with Tim," he said. "But that is a confidential conversation, and it is inappropriate to share it."

DeVenney's whereabouts were not disclosed, but Wheeler said he is under protection, and is receiving professional help.

Asked if DeVenney has admitted anything, Wheeler said that was "just rumor."

Many wanted to know if DeVenney can ever be a priest again if he is guilty. If so, would any parish he might serve be notified of the charges? Wheeler said it's too early to know what will happen. Possible outcomes include: • Full restoration to priestly duties if he is exonerated, and if his psychological evaluation shows he is no threat.

• Limited duty - possibly including no access to children or youth - if he successfully completes treatment and after-care.

• No priestly assignments, ever, anywhere, if he is found guilty, or if a psychological evaluation shows he could be a threat.

"In such situations," Wheeler said, "it's not easy for a priest to get any reassignment."

Wheeler said the archdiocese's investigation is not like a trial, but an administrative and psychological process. All investigations into criminal charges, he said, will be left to the police - whose findings will be considered as archdiocesan officials decide what happens to DeVenney.


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