A support group for people who were abused by priests is charging that the Des Moines Catholic Diocese is trying to “out” a plaintiff in a recent case. Paul Koeniguer is an outreach director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and he says when people bring accusations they don’t always want to become a public figure. He says many victims are intimidated, as they’ve been abused and had a crime perpetrated against them, and they’re not yet ready to identify themselves — and being named publicly would feel “like they’re re-victimized a second time.”
Victims say the church won’t release names of all the clergy accused of abusing people. Lawyers for the Des Moines diocese responded to a recent accusation by saying the accuser must tell his name because otherwise it’ll create suspicion that other men who were boys in the 1960s and seventies in those Iowa parishes were the victims of that priest. “What’s interesting about that,” says Koeniguer, “is it may have been.” He says there are still a lot of cases people haven’t reported, but telling the names of priests who’ve been accused would clear those who are innocent.
The group says demanding to name accusers will only punish those who’ve finally come forward. The victims are still out there, still suffering, Koeniguer says, still suffering. What a lot of them are looking for is recognition by the church that the abuse did occur, and perhaps help with counseling and healing. In the latest suit against the Des Moines Catholic diocese, a man identified only as “John Doe” says he was abused as an altar boy by the late Father Wilwerding, who was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican several years ago, and died last year.