Representatives of a support group for people who’ve been abused by priests blasted the Dubuque Catholic Archdiocese today in the wake of a lawsuit filed against a now deceased priest. The lawsuit by an unnamed girl says Father John A. Schmitz sexually abused her at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Dubuque in 1959. Steve Theisen , the co-organizer of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP, says they have several concerns about the case. He says, “The confessional was used to initiate the sexual contact with the child. The other things that’re disturbing is that the affidavit or petition, there were four or five priests that were involved in the investigation of this, and they all knew about it and they all kept it quiet.” Theisen says they’re also upset that Father Schmitz was transferred from parish to parish and continued in priestly duties despite the church leaders knowing he raped a 12-yr old grade school girl. He says, “Society would not accept a serial rapist, or child molester to go places, yet uh, it seems like the Catholic Church harbors these people.” A spokesperson for the Dubuque Diocese says they now have a process in place to handle abuse allegations. Theisen says the church needs to release more information on past cases to show it really is changing. He says if they “don’t deal with the past, it doesn’t give me any confidence, you know 40 years from now that this epidemic doesn’t repeat itself.” A spokesperson for the Diocese says they cannot release information on cases until they can be substantiated. Theisen says the Diocese should make former victims 50-percent of the panel that deals with abuse cases. He says two victims were on the panel but he says they resigned because they weren’t listened to. He says if there were 50-percent abuse survivors on the review board, they’d be able to tell what a credible accusation is. Father Schmitz died in 1991 after working at Catholic parishes in Lansing, Dubuque, New Hampton, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Marshall County, and Greene. Theisen says victims of abuse get help by calling SNAP’s nation-wide toll-free hotline at 1-877-SNAP. Or you can go to the organization’s website at. www.SNAPnetwork.org.
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