The whereabouts of two living credibly accused priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport now is public in light of the diocese’s recent filing of its last required annual report to its bankruptcy court.
But whether any discipline action ever was brought against now-retired Bishop Lawrence Soens, who’s also accused of abuse, or his whereabouts are still being kept secret.
According to diocese spokesman Deacon David Montgomery, Gerald Stouvenal lives at the diocese’s chancery at 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, and Francis Bass lives in a nursing home in Iowa City.
Both priests each are “leading a life of prayer and penance” and are given no assignments in their communities, Montgomery said.
Defrocked priest James Janssen is living in Davenport, but because he has been laicized, he does not report to the diocese, so his exact address is unknown, Montgomery said.
Soens, who the diocese reports on its website has been accused of abuse by 31 male minors dating back to 1958, left Davenport to become bishop of the Sioux City diocese, where he retired. So, he’s “outside our jurisdiction,” Montgomery said.
The Quad-City Times called the Sioux City diocese Monday to ask about Soens’ whereabouts or whether any formal action ever was brought against the bishop. That diocese’s spokeswoman, Kristie Arlt, hung up on the reporter.
“Any discipline against (Soens) has been kept secret,” attorney Craig Levien, who has represented local victims of clergy abuse, said Monday. “The scandal wasn’t just the abuse of children by priests, it was the coverup.”
Janssen, who the Davenport diocese reports was accused of abusing 36 male minors as early as 1953, was removed from the priesthood in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.
Soens has not been defrocked.
“There’s a double standard that’s applied to priests versus a bishop,” Levien said.
Stouvenal and Bass also have not been defrocked.
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Previously, Levien had requested the release of “all communications from Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, about the decision not to defrock credibly accused perpetrators.”
Montgomery responded to that request Monday, saying a decision made by the Vatican “is final, cannot be changed” and that communication that goes on at the Vatican is “confidential.”
The Davenport diocese filed for bankruptcy in October 2006 after it lost its first civil sex abuse trial. The diocese, its insurance company and the creditors committee agreed to a $37 million bankruptcy settlement.
More than 150 sex abuse victims were covered by the settlement.
Montgomery said he hopes the filing of the last report to the bankruptcy court “brings to conclusion” the non-monetary issues raised in the settlement.
Levien said the Davenport diocese met the “minimum required by victims” but said a lot of questions remain unanswered.
“The policy of secrecy continues,” Levien said.