DES MOINES — The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has completed a review of clergy abuse in Iowa. The office examined records involving about 70 Catholic priests and looked into 50 complaints of sexual abuse and misconduct reported to the attorney general.
“Sexual abuse took place over decades. The complaints, the victims, the duration of the abuse were overwhelming,” a report by the AG’s Office concluded. “Our hearts go out to the victims of these acts. The consequences are severe and lifelong.”
The report concludes that while the Catholic Church in Iowa had a long, painful history of abuse by priests and a cover-up by officials, the Dioceses have enacted many reforms over the last two decades. The Dioceses have become more responsive to victims of clergy abuse and each now reports all accusations to law enforcement authorities.
Five priests in Iowa have been the subject of allegations for actions that occurred during or after 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children.
Attorney General Tom Miller began to focus on clergy sex abuse after the release of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s report. In November 2018, Miller announced that he was gathering information on clergy abuse in Iowa. He and his staff began meeting with Catholic Church officials, as well as survivors of clergy sex abuse.
Early in 2019, two of Iowa’s dioceses — Sioux City and Des Moines — released their first lists of credibly accused priests. The Davenport Diocese and Dubuque Archdiocese had previously released such lists.
In June 2019, Miller announced he had met with Iowa’s four bishops and sent them a letter requesting further information. He also launched a hotline and online submission form, inviting survivors to report abuse to the office.
The office’s investigation focused on two areas:
Examining complaints reported to the office alleging abuse by clergy — of any religion or denomination — and particularly those that had not been previously reported;
Reviewing decisions by Iowa dioceses to include some accused priests on their published lists and exclude others.
The dioceses agreed to provide confidential information, including accusations, summaries of review board decisions, and other internal documents to the AG’s office.
Since the office’s review began, three names were added to the list in the Diocese of Sioux City and one name was added to the list in the Diocese of Davenport.
Fifty submissions received
The AG’s report included a summary of the complaints received via the hotline or website submissions. Some highlights:
The office received 50 complaints. Of those, 45 complaints were against Catholic clergy or others involved in the Catholic church. Five were about non-Catholic pastors or spiritual leaders.
The complaints made accusations against 36 Catholic priests or brothers.
None of the complaints involving Catholic clergy fell within the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. The allegations ranged from the 1930s to 1997.
Three of the allegations involved active Catholic priests.
Twenty-nine complaints named a priest or priests who are listed on one of the Diocese lists of credibly accused priests.
Seventeen of the complainants said they had never reported the allegations previously to any authorities.
The unreported allegations included an accusation against the Rev. Robert “Bud” Grant, who is on the faculty at St. Ambrose University and a priest in the Des Moines Diocese. The Diocese conducted an eight-month investigation as a result of the complaint to the AG’s office and placed Grant on restrictions and supervision.
Of the reports regarding non-Catholic pastors, two involve allegations within the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. These allegations involve possible adult victims.
Although all of the accusations concerning Catholic clergy fell outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges, the AG’s report notes that the review nonetheless offered survivors a chance to come forward and receive counseling or other resources if desired.
“Religious authorities of all denominations must continue to encourage people to come forward with reports and ensure it is safe to do so. No matter how old the accusation, these reports can lead to healing and reforms,” the report recommends.