Wednesday, November 05, 2008

4 priests in Iowa guilty of sexual abuse

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport announced that four priests, including retired Bishop Lawrence Soens, have been found guilty of sexual abuse by a diocesan review board.

A five-member review board found Soens, who served as bishop of the Sioux City Diocese from 1983 to 1998, guilty of sexually abusing students at Iowa City Regina High School in the 1950s and 1960s, when he was principal.

Soens was also found guilty of sexually abusing a male minor when Soens was rector of the St. Ambrose Seminary in Davenport.

The report on Soens will be sent to the Vatican, where Pope Benedict XVI will decide whether he will be defrocked, Deacon David Montgomery said.

The announcement may mark the first time a Catholic bishop has been found guilty of sexual assault by the church, victim advocates said.

"That is monumental for the diocese to admit that one of their bishops is a credibly accused abuser," said Mike Uhde, an abuse victim who lives in Davenport.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the "belated and begrudging" admission of Soens' guilt was intentionally released when there is a glut of news from the elections.

Joseph Hines, Eugene Smith and Gerald Stouvenel will also be added to a list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing children, the diocese said.

The review board found that Stouvenel sexually abused three boys in the 1970s. The pope has ordered Stouvenel to "lead a life of prayer and penance," but did not defrock him. Stouvenel will continue to live at the diocese headquarters in Davenport, where he will be monitored, the diocese announced.

Hines is dead. Smith was defrocked in 1981, Montgomery said.

Monsignor Drake Shafer was found not guilty of sex abuse and will be restored to active ministry, the diocese announced. Shafer was second-in-command in the diocese until he was suspended in 2003 after a West Burlington man sued him for alleged sexual molestation. The case was settled out of court.

In October 2006, the Davenport Diocese became the fourth diocese in the United States to go to bankruptcy court to protect its church assets from sex abuse lawsuits. This followed more than $10 million the diocese paid to settle claims from 2004 to 2006 and a $1.5 million jury award to one victim.

A federal bankruptcy judge in May approved a plan for the Davenport Diocese to give $37 million to victims of sexual abuse by priests and other diocese employees. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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(Source: CNUS)

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