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Review finds Catholic Church has history of sexual abuse in Iowa, has made strides to improve

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 5:39 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A three-year review examining the records from Iowa’s four Catholic Dioceses (Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Sioux City) found while the Catholic Church has a history of sexual abuse, it has made strides to improve.

The investigation started in 2018.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office looked into 50 complaints of sexual abuse and 70 priests.

The allegations dated back as far as the 1930s, and three involve active priests.

The report concludes Catholic priests sexually abused minors in Iowa for decades and church leaders covered it up, but it found reforms were put in place in 2002.

Since then, only five Iowa priests have been accused of misconduct.

The Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said none of the complaints can be criminally prosecuted, because they aren’t within the statute of limitations.

He said a state law that legislators passed this session eliminating the statute of limitation to bring criminal charges for sexual abuse of children wouldn’t hold.

“Once a statute of limitations is extended, the people whose statute has actually run, they cannot be charged,” Miller said.

But Patrick Hopkins, an attorney representing some survivors of clergy abuse, disagrees.

“Even that now I think is called into question by the change in Iowa law,” Hopkins said.

He says even if criminal prosecution can’t happen, there is still the possibility of filing civil lawsuits.

The report noted that the review offered survivors a chance to come forward and receive counseling or other resources if desired.

The Diocese of Dubuque released a joint statement saying:

“The Catholic Church is committed to do all that is humanly possible to protect minors from the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and to promote healing. Policies and procedures in place provide for responding to each allegation, cooperating with civil authorities, removing offenders from ministry, and being held accountable.”

The Diocese of Davenport also released a statement saying:

“I apologize for abuse by clergy that occurred in the past. In 2002, the bishops of the United States made significant and sweeping changes to the Church’s role in protecting children and vulnerable adults. As a result, we respond promptly and compassionately to victims, report the alleged abuse of minors to civil authorities, remove offenders following a review of allegations by lay experts in relevant fields, and submit to third-party annual audits.

Since 2003, the Diocese of Davenport has provided ongoing safe environment training sessions for adults and children. We also have complete background checks on Church employees and volunteers working with children, which are renewed every five years.

These efforts have helped. The Diocese of Davenport has not received a founded report of child sexual abuse that occurred in the past 33 years ago. Nevertheless, our Church and society need to continue to be vigilant in providing safe environments for children to thrive and grow.

The hotline provided by the Attorney General for reporting sexual abuse will assist victims of abuse. It will supplement the Diocese’s long-standing policy of reporting allegations of sexual abuse to the Scott County Attorney and to the Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese.”

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