Man Says He Was Victim of Sex Abuse

By Todd Ruger
Quad Cities Times
June 18, 2005

A man identified in court records only as "John Doe III" told a Scott County District judge Friday that he was sexually abused 30 to 40 times in the 1960s by a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.

The accused priest, the Rev. Theodore Geerts, died last year, but a default judgment had been entered against him in 2003 after he did not respond when the lawsuit was served on him in California, District Judge C.H. Pelton said at the hearing.

Friday's hearing established $1.9 million in damages that Doe III can collect from the estate of Geerts — if there is one — for past and future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering caused by the abuse, plaintiff attorney Craig Levien of Davenport said.

"We're going to use this as a basis to explore whatever assets Geerts had in California or elsewhere," Levien added.

The judgment followed about 45 minutes of testimony from Doe III, who also was referred to as "Chuck" at the hearing. He described sexual abuse by Geerts during weekend group sex sessions that included three priests and up to five boys.

Doe III testified that the abuse started with former priest James Janssen when he was 12 years old in Fort Madison and continued until his family moved to Davenport when he was 15 years old.

He said Janssen and the Rev. Francis Bass would go to the rectory where Geerts lived in Farmington, Iowa, for the group sex. His memory "blanked out" at times when the priests would sexually abuse him and other boys, he said.

"It was all just crazy," he told the judge. "I still do think about it every day, some aspect of it."

Janssen and Bass, also named as defendants in Doe III's lawsuit, denied the allegations in court records. Bass settled the lawsuit with Doe III for undisclosed terms while Doe III dropped his case against Janssen after reaching a settlement with the diocese.

Doe III also testified that Janssen told him if he revealed the sexual abuse to anyone, no woman would want to marry him and that if he did get married and had any children, his wife would think he was molesting them.

He tried suicide once and has had trouble holding jobs because of issues with authority figures and group interaction stemming from the abuse, Doe III added.

Also, he said, a response he received from the diocese hindered his ability to function. He told the judge he reported the abuse to Bishop William Franklin in a letter and received a written reply that said the three priests were no longer in contact with children.

"And that wasn't true. I found that out later," Doe III said, adding that he thought at the time he was the first and only person to send such a letter, "and I thought Bishop Franklin would act on it."

Diocese officials could not be reached for comment Friday by the Quad-City Times.

Doe III also told the judge he knows many of the other men who were abused and that they probably will never be able to come forward and report it.

"They can't even talk about the abuse. They can't even get their minds around it," he said.

Pelton said he entered a $2.4 million judgment against Geerts that was reduced by $526,055, the amount the diocese paid Doe III in a settlement reached during October.

Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or

No new trial

A former priest with the Catholic Diocese of Davenport who lost a $1.9 million judgment in a civil lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused his nephew years ago should not get a new trial, a district judge ruled Friday.

According to court records, District Judge C.H. Pelton denied James Janssen's motion for a new trial, ruling that the jury's verdicts against the defrocked priest are supported by the evidence.

Pelton reduced the $1.9 million jury judgment by $472,376, the amount the plaintiff, James Wells, received in a settlement with the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.


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