An Iowa priest died recently in Mexico, and Catholic leaders sent the report to all parishes in the state. In part, that was done because Robert Reiss (rice) was accused of abusing children during his time as a clergyman, and had been removed from the priesthood, “defrocked,” in 1997. Joyce Connors is director of the new archdiocese “Office for Protection of Children.” Over the years, she says there was clergy abuse of minors in the church, as there was outside it. But the issue was not handled well at all. Connors says this new revelation has opened painful wounds for some people who fought for years just to have their true stories believed. Seven years ago, when then-Father Reiss was laicized (LAY’-uh-sized), or defrocked, it was pretty much standard practice that the church did not release that kind of information. Reiss himself made the request that he be laicized, “And then it just quietly happened,” Connors says. “I don’t defend that that was the right thing to do, I’m just saying that’s how it was done.” Connors has worked for over fourteen years as a counselor, and served as the archdiocese adoption coordinator. She says the decision was made in Reiss’s death to put out some information, because of the history of mistrust in the church’s reporting…and though no body’s been returned or even an official death certificate. The diocese sent out a message, hoping to reach people first in churches before a general public announcement was made. Connors says she knows there are people out there who have no trust in the church. People will view what the church says with some skepticism, and she says she understands that — but as a church laywoman, a parent and a counselor, she intends to work with the archbishop to keep trying to handle such issues better than was done in the past. The archdiocese sent a message to churches where Reiss had served asking anyone who was abused by clergy to tell their priest or contact the people appointed to deal with clergy sex abuse. The church was informed by family members that Reiss had died in Chilpancingo, Mexico February 3 and Connors says no body has been returned to the family or the church, and no official death certificate or details of how he died.
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