A small group went to St. Josephs’ Parish south of Dubuque this morning to stage a “sidewalk news conference” over the latest case involving accusations of priest abuse. A man who now lives in Texas has sued the diocese charging a priest molested him in the 1960s. The priest, William Roach, has since died. Steve Theisen with SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says the diocese is trying to put blame on the victim instead. “They’re trying to put the onus on the victim instead of the perp,” Theisen says. He says the defense argued that the victim, who was 17 at the time, was not a child. “We think that’s very wrong to say that basically fifteen, sixteen and 17-year-old kids are fair game.” The lawyers for the Dubuque diocese are also using a novel tactic in trying to deflect the accusation. They’re saying that Monsignor Roach was not an employee of the diocese — that he was an independent contractor. “We find that very misleading,” Theisen says. Theisen says such “hardball” tactics prevent young victims from coming forward. Theisen says the archbishop has the legal right to defend the priest and the archdiocese. “But… he doesn’t have the moral right,” Theisen asserts. “What he’s really telling every little kid right now is that nobody’s going to believe you and we’re going to fight you tooth and nail.” Theisen says it’s the wrong message to be sending out today to children who may be abused by people, and not necessarily by the religious. Roach was pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish from around 1968 till 1978. SNAP members say they want the diocese to handle the case fairly, and also to release names of priests sent to the Vatican by the parish to be defrocked, so victims of other abuse cases can heal and other children may be protected.
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