The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has released its report on clergy sex abuse within the Catholic Church.

Attorney General spokesperson, Lynn Hicks, says the office started gathering information in 2018, and examined the records of 70 priests and 50 complaints. The statute of limitations has expired for all the cases reviewed.

“Despite the fact that they fall outside the statute of limitations — we still think this was a good thing,” Hicks says. Hicks says the process led to 17 people who had never before reported allegations coming forward.

“We think it was valuable even in that respect to allow people to come forward and tell their story,” Hicks says. “In many cases they were able to talk to a crime victims advocate in our office and we could offer them resources to see what they wanted to do going forward.”

The report also indicates that the four Catholic Diocese in Iowa have taken steps to address the issue. “Since 2002 — that’s when the U.S. Conference of Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children — there’s been very few, only about five reports since then involving Iowa priests,” Hicks says. “We note in our report that the diocese has become more responsive to victims and now reports all accusations to law enforcement authorities.”

He says the changes put in place give victims a chance to be heard. He says some of the dioceses continue to get complaints and continue to investigate. “And we encourage people to come forward — even if a priest is no longer active, is deceased. We think that all of this is a good process and we hope brings healing to the victims,” Hicks says.

Hicks says they hope that victims will now know they will be heard. “We did hear that from some of the victims who came forward to us and said they felt they couldn’t come forward. They couldn’t trust the process,” he says.

The four Catholic Bishops released a statement that says the Attorney General’s review of cases will be studied for suggestions on how the efforts of the Catholic Church might be improved. It says the “Catholic Church is committed to do all that is humanly possible to protect minors from the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and to promote healing.”

The Catholic bishops of Iowa are Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Bishop William Joensen of Des Moines, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, and Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City.