Hearing set regarding compliance with nonmonetary requirements

The Davenport Diocese's coat of arms.

By Barb Arland-Fye

A hearing has been set for Oct. 7 concerning the Diocese of Davenport’s compliance with the nonmonetary requirements of its bankruptcy settlement.

Bankruptcy Judge Lee Jackwig ordered the hearing in response to an Aug. 18 request from Robert Berger, settlement trustee for the Davenport Diocese’s bankruptcy case. He asked for a two-hour hearing with Bishop Martin Amos present to answer questions about “the apparent failure of the diocese to comply with certain of its obligations,” the petition states.

At issue are the 18 items in the nonmonetary agreement the Davenport Diocese made with clergy sexual abuse survivors and their representatives as part of a $37 million bankruptcy settlement that took effect June 9, 2008.

Diocesan attorney Richard Davidson said the “nonmonetary items were negotiated word for word … we have followed them to the letter.”

Berger disagrees. In the petition he states, for example, that Bishop Amos has failed to publicly support a complete elimination of all criminal statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse.  But a June 11, 2009, article in The Catholic Messenger states that “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.” The article provided readers with the first annual update on the diocese’s compliance with the nonmonetary agreement.

Berger also states that the diocese failed to release a written report it “allegedly provided to the Apostolic Nuncio with regard to Bishop (Lawrence) Soens.” A retired bishop of the Sioux City Diocese, Bishop Soens previously served as a priest of the Davenport Diocese. He is accused of having abused minors while serving as principal at Regina High School in Iowa City four decades ago. In the June 11 Messenger article, the diocese said it had made a full, written report about Bishop Soens on June 6, 2008. Five prior reports had been made, the diocese noted.

Berger also said the diocese has failed to disclose priest affidavits and make them meaningful. The bishop and each priest working in the diocese was required to sign an affidavit that they have never sexually abused a minor or know of any  other priest or employee of the diocese who has abused anyone. The written statements have been made, Davidson said, and are filed in the bishop’s office.

The settlement trustee further states that the diocese has failed to provide evidence of the unobstructed posting of plaques in diocesan schools that contain information about sexual abuse.

“They wanted us to put a plaque up at Regina. And we said, ‘Why don’t we put these in all of the schools because this is a positive thing. We don’t want to single out Regina.’ They agreed to that,” Davidson said.

Berger states that the diocese failed to file its report as required. It was filed June 5, 2009, prior to the first anniversary of the settlement plan’s effective date, but a month after the first anniversary of the confirmation date, as the judge stipulated. Davidson said he inadvertently mixed up the two dates.

“Secrecy was at the core of the Diocese’s treatment of sex abuse survivors during and after their abuse. Therefore, it is imperative that the Diocese’s efforts in complying with (the nonmonetary undertakings) be as open as possible,” Berger said in his petition.

“We have filed a very comprehensive report and spent quite some time making certain that all of the nonmonetary requirements have been complied with completely and fully in the spirit they were agreed to,” Davidson said.

The diocese submitted its report on compliance with the nonmonetary agreement two months ago. Until the request for a hearing, no questions or concerns had been raised about it by the abuse survivors, their representatives or the legal firm hired as counsel to Berger, Davidson said.

“We followed the agreement as it was written and if the judge wants us to do more than that, we’ll be happy to follow her instructions,” he said.

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