Thursday, February 26, 2009

Abuse survivor wants diocese to reach out to victims

Abuse survivor wants diocese to reach out to victims
By Dolly A. Butz dbutz@siouxcityjournal.com Posted: Friday, November 07, 2008
SIOUX CITY -- A self-proclaimed clergy sexual abuse survivor and victims advocacy group leader on Thursday called upon the Diocese of Sioux City to reach out to victims who were allegedly abused by a former local bishop and aid in having him defrocked.On Monday, the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, announced that a review board had "credibly accused" former Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens of sexually abusing boys in the Davenport Diocese.Soens allegedly abused boys during the 1950s and 1960s while he was principal at Iowa City Regina High School. Another man said Soens abused him while serving as rector at St. Ambrose Seminary in Davenport, according to the Diocese of Davenport.Soens, who lives in a Sioux City retirement home, denied the allegations through his attorney, Tim Bottaro of Sioux City, on Monday.Kristie Arlt, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Sioux City, said Thursday that no allegations of sexual abuse were ever made against Soens while he was bishop of Sioux City, from 1983 to 1998.But Janet Clark, of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, reading a statement outside diocese headquarters, said there is no reason to believe that Soens did not molest children in Sioux City."We fear there are still many more victims trapped in silence and self-blame," she said. "We believe the diocese has a moral and a civil obligation to reach out to these deeply wounded individuals."Clark urged Sioux City's current bishop, the Rev. R. Walker Nickless, to issue an apology for allowing Soens to live in the community, to use every resource available to permanently remove Soens from the religious state and to personally visit every parish in the diocese to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward."Bishop Nickless needs to show solidarity with victims, not the perpetrators," she said.Arlt said she was hesitant to comment about Soens because the allegations against him stem from his time as a priest in Davenport."The Davenport Diocese is handling this, as well as the Vatican," she said. "Bishop Nickless and the Diocese of Sioux City have nothing to do with this process."Arlt said Nickless is committed to the diocese's Safe Environment Program, a comprehensive plan that consists of a code of ethical standards for those ministering on behalf of the church, background checks on existing and new employees and volunteers, and increased awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse."This is a sacred responsibility that Bishop Nickless upholds," she said. What does 'credibly accused' mean?It means that a review board has determined that there is reason to believe that accusations of sexual abuse against a clergy member are true and that the accused's name must be added to a list of those who are credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.A determination is based on whether the allegation is more likely than not to have occurred, is corroborated or is acknowledged or admitted to by the accused.In Bishop Soens' case, the five-member board did not investigate all 31 accusations against him because some claimants did not want their claims reviewed.Source: davenportdiocese.org

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