January 19, 2005
Church says former bishop accused of child sexual abuse
January 19, 2005 [Associated Press]
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - A former bishop of the Sioux City Roman Catholic diocese was accused of child sex abuse when he was a priest in the Davenport diocese, and the Davenport diocese reached a settlement with one of the accusers, church officials said.
A report issued Tuesday by Davenport Bishop William Franklin said that there were three allegations against retired Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens and the diocese settled one of those allegations for $20,000 in October.
Soens was the Sioux City diocese's fifth bishop, serving from 1983 to 1998.
Soens' name did not surface publicly until now because no lawsuits were filed naming him, according to Patrick Noaker, an attorney for victims who as a group reached a $9 million settlement in October with the Davenport diocese.
Sioux City diocese spokesman Jim Wharton defended Soens and said news of the allegations "shocks and saddens all of us."
The Sioux City diocese never received complaints regarding sexual impropriety against Soens, Wharton said.
"Soens' service as shepherd of the diocese was exemplary," Wharton said. "He is a special person who has dedicated his priesthood to working and caring for others. He is a prayerful, holy man, and the people of the diocese pray for him and those who make these allegations."
Timothy Bottaro, Soens' attorney, said that Soens has denied the allegations, but that since the matter is now before church authorities, he can make no comment.
Tuesday's report summarized the Davenport diocese's investigation of sexual abuse in the past year.
It is the first time in Iowa that a bishop has been publicly accused of abuse in connection with the scandal that has exposed decades of abuse of minors by clergy.
Soens served at Davenport diocese parishes in Burlington, Victor, Charlotte and Clinton. He was an administrator at Regina High School in Iowa City, on the faculty of St. Ambrose Academy, and served as rector and on the faculty of St. Ambrose College in Davenport before becoming a bishop.
Franklin issued the report as a summary of child sexual abuse that the diocese has received since its last report on Feb. 25, 2004. An allegation against Soens was noted in that report, although he was not named. Two additional allegations against him surfaced in the past year.
The Davenport Diocese reported and the Sioux City Diocese confirmed that Soens is "completely retired and not involved in any capacity."
Soens accompanied the Rev. Roger Augustine, administrator of the Diocese of Sioux City, on a November visit to the Vatican, where the U.S. bishops met privately with Pope John Paul II and members of various Vatican offices.
Franklin said that he is in consultation with Catholic Church authorities for final resolution of the matter.
Posted by Nancy at January 19, 2005 09:23 AM