By Barb Arland-Fye
The Diocese of Davenport has submitted its first report detailing fulfillment of its non-monetary commitments in a bankruptcy settlement with clergy sexual abuse survivors.
Eighteen items were identified in the non-monetary agreement, such as: a public listing of all know perpetrators, bishop-led atonement services at each parish where abuse occurred or where a perpetrator served, letters of apology from the bishop to abuse survivors as requested, publication of victim assistance information in parish bulletins and The Catholic Messenger and signed statements from the bishop and priests of the diocese that they have not committed abuse.
Richard Davidson, the Lane & Waterman attorney handling the diocese’s bankruptcy, filed the report June 5 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa.
Bankruptcy Judge Lee Jackwig required submission of an annual compliance report for three consecutive years. She made that requirement in approving the Joint Plan of Reorganization between the diocese, Travelers Insurance, Catholic entities and survivors of clergy sexual abuse on May 1, 2008. The plan’s effective date was June 9, 2008.
“The report is comprehensive, detailed and shows full compliance by the diocese,” Bishop Martin Amos told The Catholic Messenger. “It demonstrates our commitment to fulfilling our obligations to the court, to the survivors of abuse and to the people of the diocese. The diocese and the claimants committee entered into a long and deliberative process in forming the bankruptcy plan that culminated in an agreement that was approved and ordered by the court. I was determined to complete the non-monetary undertakings for which I was responsible within one year. While the report has been completed, my commitment to the ongoing healing process and to the safety of children will continue.”
The report shows:
• The diocese and Catholic entities agreed to undertake the non-monetary obligations within 30 days of the effective date of the plan unless otherwise noted.
• The diocese has completed all ongoing investigations concerning allegations of abuse and the names of credibly accused perpetrators have been released and published on the diocesan Web site (www.davenportdiocese.org) on July 10, 2008; Nov. 13, 2008; and May 1, 2009. Future reports will be submitted to law enforcement authorities.
• The diocese is maintaining a list of all known perpetrators (admitted, proven or credibly accused), including those who are deceased or were previously listed. The list will be maintained and updated for at least nine years. It is on the Web site.
• Bishop Martin Amos had conducted 47 atonement services at parishes where abuse occurred or where a perpetrator had served. He had seven services remaining, with the last one to be held June 14 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The atonement services were scheduled at least 30 days in advance and publicized in the specific parish’s bulletin and in The Catholic Messenger. Known survivors in each of the parishes were invited to attend and time was set aside for a forum and discussion to address parishioner questions and comments.
• The diocese has published and will continue to publish in parish bulletins and The Catholic Messenger contact information for the diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator and continues to encourage abuse survivors to contact healthcare professionals for assistance in finding needed mental health services or counseling.
• The diocese has published four times a year a statement in The Catholic Messenger urging abused persons to contact law enforcement, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, doctor or other health care professional or other trusted persons to make an abuse report.
• Bishop Amos publicly supports the elimination of all criminal statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse committed by clergy or others in positions of authority.
• Any allowed tort claimant (a person whose claim was reviewed by an arbitrator for authenticity) may speak publicly in the parish where he or she was abused. No requests have been received to date.
• Space is continuing to be made available in The Catholic Messenger for tort claimants to publish stories of their abuse. No requests have been received.
• The diocese does not use the term “alleged” in its references to claims, abuse or survivors.
• Bishop Amos has personally sent two letters of apology to tort claimants as requested. No additional letters of apology are pending at this time.
• All prior confidentiality agreements with survivors were terminated as of the effective date with respect to perpetrators’ names and church knowledge of abuse.
• Through its Victim Assistance Coordinator, the diocese continues to provide an outreach program for abuse survivors. The coordinator reports regularly to the Diocesan Review Board.
• The diocese continues to provide information in writing to each parish, church and school regarding the prevention of abuse and training to identify and prevent abuse. Compliance is through the diocese’s “Protecting God’s Children” program.
• The diocese has adopted policies relating to sexual abuse and personal behavior incorporating a whistleblower policy concerning the reporting of abuse.
• Bishop Amos and all priests working within the diocese have signed a written statement that they have not sexually abused any minor at any time and have no knowledge that any other priest or employee of the diocese has abused someone. The statement is retained in each priest’s personnel file in perpetuity.
• Plaques are prominently displayed at each diocesan school stating that abuse of the spiritual, emotional and moral development of the young men and women of that school shall not be tolerated.
• On June 6, 2008, the diocese made a full, written report to the Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican’s representative to the United States) for appropriate action with respect to retired Bishop Lawrence Soens. Five prior reports were made concerning Bishop Soens, a priest of the Davenport Diocese, who served as bishop of the Sioux City Diocese before his retirement.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2006, a month after a jury awarded $1.5 million to a sex abuse survivor who sued the diocese. Eighteen months later, the diocese reached agreement on a financial settlement of $37 million with more than 150 clergy sexual abuse survivors, Travelers Insurance and Catholic entities.