Organizers of a northeast Iowa group created to support victims of clergy abuse says the Dubuque Catholic Diocese is still too slow to release information on accusations against priests. A spokeswoman for the diocese says however they’re doing what they can to legally release information. Steve Theisen, of Hudson, is the co-organizer of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP. He says, “Archibishop Hanus of Dubuque has said he’d have an open dialogue, open disuccsion. And in their policy for the protection of children, it says they’ll also inform the faith communities of any alleged abuses. And so far, we haven’t seen any of that happen.” Theisen says the Dubuque Archdiocese did recently release information on one priest — but that he says that was one week after SNAP handed out leaflets to parishioners about the accused molester. He says, “It’s like they have to be forced to release this information.” He says this is their job to do it isn’t his job to do. Theisen says it’s important to have the names of abusers released, as it’s very tough for victims to come forward. He says when an abuser’s name comes out, it give the victim the courage to know they aren’t the only one that was abused. He says it can give victims courage to come forward if they don’t see the name of their abuser listed. Thiesen says releasing the information on accused abusers is important in moving on with the recovery. He says, “Honesty and truthfulness is the only way, survivors are gonna heal. And it’s the only way the people in the pews are gonna heal and it’s the only way the diocese is gonna heal.” Theisen says the diocese has enough information to support the release of the names of the alleged abusers. Joyce Connors heads the “Office for Protection of Children”, created by the Dubuque Diocese in July 2004 to manage abuse case records and incoming reports of new abuse cases. Connors says if there’s a new abuse case, there’s a system set up that will let the diocese and her office deal with it. In this day and age, if a priest were found guilty of abusing a child, “He would just be gone, boom, right now, no questions asked,” she says. It’s the way it would need to be, under the new policy for keeping children safe. But she says it’s not so clear what happens when an old case comes up. Connors says a lot of cases date from the 1950s, sixties and the seventies. She says they know a lot of people out there haven’t yet come forward with their stories of abuse, so they’re trying to provide an environment that lets such people feel they can come forward and be heard, and to reach out to them, in a pastoral sense. Connors says she takes calls from victims of abuse who are understandably angry and want to tell their story — but she says they can’t make such stories public immediately. She says in a case where she doesn’t have proof but someone’s come forward to make a complaint, until they’ve verified that “fill in that blank with any name” may have happened in fact, she says it’s irresponsible to put out the name of the accused. Yet she says the committee understands that it creates a conflict with its mission of shining light on cases that once were covered up. The accusers know they’re telling the truth, she says, but with no proof if an allegation’s made and evetually not sustained, the church has a problem if it’s publicized the accusations. The flipside, of course, is that using such discretion might make it look like the church is still hiding such abusers.
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