Mar 052009

In the 1960s I received an unannounced visit in Iowa City from Father Joseph Hines, my former medical ethics instructor at St. Anthony’s School of Nursing. My children were with me.

He said a departed nun was soon to be married and feared oral sex. He asked my “advice”.

The story was fabricated. I awkwardly replied, too shocked to coherently react. I told no one, not even my husband.

Two years ago, I received a diocesan questionnaire regarding sexual abuse. I answered honestly, providing my age then and now.

In the resulting communications, “Abuse” was defined as “…interactions of a sexual nature … whether or not it involves physical contact, and whether or not there is physical, psychological or emotional harm to the … nonconsenting adult.”

Despite no refutation, mediator Richard Calkins ruled, “Your complaint does not constitute sexual abuse under the terms of the bankruptcy proceeding. Your claim is denied.” I appealed. His reply? “You (sic) award is affirmed.”

This fall, I attended the Atonement Service at St. Wenceslaus in Iowa City, blocks from Fr. Hines’ visit. Incredibly, Bishop Martin Amos said there was never an intention to address abuse of adults. If true, why the definition above? Why did the Messenger note the abuse of “adult males” by Brothers Francis Skube and Mark Quillen? And why ask me to dredge up memories if there was never any intention to act?

It’s been said the principals are no longer with us, and we should move on. Fr. Hines has died, but to the church’s apparent inconvenience, I’m still here.

In the 1960s, I felt compelled to remain silent. Today, I must speak out.

I simply do not trust the church to do right for those now under its pastoral care until it acknowledges those it has already harmed.

Forty-five years later, I’m still waiting.

Barbara Immermann


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