Details were released Wednesday of a settlement with the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 26 sexual abuse claims against Catholic priests. The settlement says the abuse happened between the late 1940s and the 1970s and 22 males and four females will be paid $5.2-million.
Archbishop Michael Jackels took over three months ago when Jerome Hanus retired. “I am sorry, so sorry that this has ever happened, and also how it has affected their trust that somebody in the church, or the leadership in the church could be trusted to help,” Jackels told Radio Iowa.
“Second, that we offer what is within our means to contribute to the whole process of healing and wholeness.” Jackels says the Catholic church as a whole, and the Dubuque Diocese in particular are intent ending any abuse by priests.
“I suppose somebody could dispute on this matter, but I am, we are, committed to do all that is humanly possible to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the future,” Jackels says. He says the effort to educate priests and others within the church now is much more rigorous than when he applied to be a priest in the 1970s.
“And a greater commitment to do all that is humanly possible — and I put it in those terms, humanly possible — because I can’t make a pledge do more than that. And because humans are imperfect and it’s an imperfect world, it could be that something could fall through the cracks,” Jackels explains.
“If that were to happen, I pledge that I would act swiftly and certainly in response to that.” Jackels says he has taken steps on the local level to be sure that the priests who enter the parish are the right ones for the job.
“I have spoken for the vocation director, the one who is responsible for recruiting young men for the priesthood. I don’t care how desperately we need priests, we are not going to lower the bar and just take anybody. Is he a male? Is he breathing, all right we’ll take him?,” according to Jackels.
Jackels and Hanus issued an apology to the victims. The archdiocese is also offering to help those who come forward to report abuse and offering some counseling.
The leader of the group “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” or SNAP, says many people will look at the money in the settlement and think that makes a difference. But, Steve Theisen of Hudson says that’s not the case.
“I don’t think it’s that at all. I’m kind of curious why it even takes going to an attorney, why the Archdiocese hasn’t taken better care of these people. I don’t think it’s got much to do with the money,” Theisen says. He says he doesn’t know any of the people in this settlement, but says for a lot of survivors he knows, the abuse affects every facet of their life.
Theisen isn’t sure that the Catholic Church has really changed its attitude toward the abuse. “I guess if I’m skeptical it is because the archdiocese recruited these people, they trained these people, and then when they found out they were abusing kids, they shuffled them from parish to parish without letting the parents know,” Theisen says. “…until the institution changes, those that run the institution, I think they’re doing the bare minimum as this time.”
He says there’s still a need for society as a whole to change its attitude toward abuse. “The people who are abused by religious figures are just a small fraction of the general population that has been sexually abuse by a coach or a teacher or a relative,” according to Theisen, “So, I think society has a long way to go to start outing these predators.”
Theisen says SNAP urges anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest or anyone else to find the strength to speak up to help prevent the abuse of others. He says SNAP also can provide someone for abuse victims to talk to who knows what they have gone through.