Retired Bishop Named in Iowa Sex Abuse Claims

Catholic News Service
May 25, 2006

Davenport, Iowa - The Davenport Diocese received notice May 22 of 14 claims against it for clerical sexual abuse of minors. They included seven more claims against retired Bishop Lawrence D. Soens of Sioux City, Iowa, who was a Davenport priest before he was made a bishop.

Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan spokesman, said the diocese would have to review the claims before making any comment on them.

The law firm of Betty, Neuman & McMahon, which served notice of the claims, said in a news release that the seven claims against Bishop Soens date from his days as principal of Regina High School in Iowa City, 1959-67.

All of the new claims were by males. Of the seven that did not name Bishop Soens, four were against the late Msgr. Thomas Feeney, who died in 1981. Two claimants said they were abused by William Wiebler, who was recently defrocked, and one said he was abused in the 1940s by the late Msgr. Carl Meinberg, who died in 1975.

Bishop Soens, who retired in 1998, has denied accusations against him. In 2005 the diocese settled with one of his accusers. It was in mediation to settle at least seven other claims against him when the new claims were announced.

The law firm's news release said all the new claimants have agreed to try settling their claims through mediation.

A statement from the diocese said, "Mediation is supposed to be a process of consultation and compromise. It is unfortunate that the attorneys for the people making these claims chose to go to the media at the same time the diocese was contacted."

The statement said the diocese "apologizes for any abuse by clergy of the diocese and will continue to help foster healing by survivors of abuse."

Earlier in the month the diocese reported that Bishop William E. Franklin received notice from the Vatican that Wiebler and another priest accused of sexual abuse have been laicized.

Wiebler, 78, who has admitted to acts of abuse with several minors, had retired in 1991 and was under strict canonical restrictions since 2002.

The other man laicized was Paul Deyo, a priest since 1976, who moved to the Sioux City Diocese in 2000. When someone came forward claiming to have been abused by Deyo in 1998, he requested voluntary laicization.

The diocese said Pope Benedict XVI issued the laicization decrees and they are not subject to appeal.

Diocesan officials also announced that they have corroborated earlier reports of sexual abuse of children by Msgr. Feeney, who was the diocese's vicar general from 1968 until his death in 1981.

Parishioners at Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Anthony Church in Davenport, where Msgr. Feeney last served, were informed of the fact at Masses May 6-7.


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