Woman shares story of alleged abuse by priests

2012-08-26T22:22:00Z 2012-08-27T05:06:04Z Woman shares story of alleged abuse by priestsBrian Wellner The Quad-City Times
August 26, 2012 10:22 pm  • 

An Iowa woman contemplating a return to the Roman Catholic Church last year agreed to meet with a priest on one condition — he remove his collar.

“Roman collars still frighten me,” Kathleen Bowman, 47, told the priest.

She then emerged from four decades of silence, having only ever shared with a therapist her story of alleged abuse as a child by three priests because the memories were making her suicidal.

“I didn’t know I could report,” Bowman told the Quad-City Times, her first time speaking publicly about the alleged abuse. “It was taking everything just to maintain life.”

The Clear Lake, Iowa, woman first told a Mason City parish priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque in August 2011, and he encouraged her to report her story. That brought her before a review board with the Diocese of Davenport, where her three alleged abusers had been clerics around the time she says she was abused.

How the Davenport diocese handled her case was the subject of a judge’s decision last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The diocese recently emerged from bankruptcy after a $37 million settlement covering 150 child sex abuse victims.

U.S. District Judge Lee Jackwig ordered the diocese to add the now-deceased Revs. John Bonn, Michael Broderick and William Dawson to its online list of credibly accused priests, according to a filing late Tuesday.

Bowman petitioned the court last month to require the diocese to put Bonn, Broderick and Dawson on the list. The diocese resisted, saying it had reviewed Bowman’s case and found her accusations not credible, although she received a settlement after an arbitrator heard her case earlier in the year.

“If they think throwing money at you compensates having your childhood ripped away, it doesn’t,” Bowman said. “I want the names on that list, so that if someone else comes forward, they don’t have to go through what I went through reporting my abuse.”

One of the bankruptcy settlement’s non-monetary requirements is that the diocese identify on its website priests whom it deems to be credibly accused of committing child sexual abuse. The list includes 31 former priests, their places of employment, dates and other details.

As of Friday, Bonn, Broderick and Dawson weren’t on the list.

Diocese weighs response

Diocese spokesman Deacon David Montgomery said the diocese received the court’s written order Thursday morning and is “exploring its options,” declining further comment about Bowman’s case.

A lawyer representing the diocese, Rand Wonio of the Davenport law firm Lane & Waterman, said the diocese is studying the judge’s order and will respond soon.

Bowman said she was 4 years old when a tall, white-haired man wearing a priest’s collar reached down and picked her up and carried her upstairs in her family’s home in Waterloo, Iowa. When she woke up from a nap, the priest was lying beside her, fondling her, she said.

The incident occurred in 1969, and Bowman has identified the man as John Bonn. She said she was abused again by Bonn as well as by Broderick and Dawson in separate incidents over the course of five years. She said her parents knew.

The three priests made multiple weekend trips together to her home, she said.

“They were family. They were my dad’s best friends.”

She said her father, Michael Huston, who once considered the priesthood, went to high school with Dawson at Catholic Central in Ottumwa, Iowa.

An obituary shows that Dawson co-officiated Huston’s funeral in 1997.

Fellow priest skeptical

The Rev. John Hynes, a retired Davenport diocese parish priest, said Friday that he knew Dawson for more than 60 years, since they were students in college, and affectionately called him “Digger.”

Hynes said he was “devastated” by the allegation against Dawson.

“Every instinct I have within me tells me it couldn’t have happened,” Hynes said.

He said Dawson was admired as a professor at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and was recognized for leading peaceful demonstrations during the Vietnam War. He received multiple awards for his teaching and has long been regarded for his work in social justice, Hynes said.

Hynes doesn’t remember an accusation ever being made against Dawson before this.

“Anyone who knew Digger well would have a hard time thinking he could be involved in such a thing,” Hynes said.

Hynes confirmed that Dawson and Huston were friends. Hynes said he personally knew Huston’s parents when he spent his first 10 years as a priest in Ottumwa, where Huston grew up.

“I knew of Michael Huston. He was a friend of Digger’s,” Hynes said. “I knew his parents.”

Dawson once visited Huston at a hospital after Huston was in a car accident, Hynes said.

Hynes also confirmed that Dawson and Broderick traveled together and were close friends. He said Broderick was a parish priest in Ottumwa while Dawson was a student, and “Broderick thought the world of Digger.”

He said he doesn’t recall Bonn ever joining Broderick and Dawson on their trips but said it is possible the three were acquainted. According to Hynes, Bonn served at the Ottumwa Naval Air Station during World War II around the same time Broderick and Dawson were in Ottumwa.

Bonn, a Jesuit priest from the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, relocated to the Davenport diocese in 1969, according to New England Province spokeswoman Alice Poltorick.

Poltorick said the Davenport diocese notified the province about the allegation in late 2011. The province has not received any other allegations against Bonn, she said.

Bonn was a professor at Boston College from 1937-43, when he joined the service as a World War II naval chaplain, Poltorick said. He returned to Boston College and was a member of the faculty until 1946, she said.

Bonn applied for and was given a faculty position at Marycrest College in Davenport in 1969, Poltorick said.

Bonn died in 1975; Broderick died in 1984.

Accuser denied meeting

Bowman brought her allegations to the Davenport diocese in September 2011, while Dawson still was alive. She repeatedly requested a meeting with Dawson and was refused, she said. He died Dec. 13, 2011, and she said she never received a written apology from him.

“With or without their blessing, I’m credible,” Bowman said. “I need them to do the right thing and name those priests.”

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(44) Comments

  1. jankbs
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    jankbs - September 01, 2012 3:14 pm
    I feel badly for this women and the pain she has been living with. However, no one will ever convince me that Fr. Digger Dawson was a pedophile. NEVER!! There was only one Digger Dawson, and he was a wonderful, kind man, friend, priest, and professor!
  2. freesenior
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    freesenior - September 01, 2012 8:33 am
    There are those that will never step forward when it comes to those horrible events for reasons, even they themselves may not understand. The damage done long ago, lingers as a bad dream, but it is not a dream, it is a wound that can never heal, even with disclosure and becoming subject to a public discussion. "What purpose?" so many ask themselves. Memories can over time become reshaped and then those that hold them begin to question their own recollection at times. They ask themselves, "Is this really what happened?" Is it possible something so traumatic can be tolerated by a young mind, and in maturity be recalled in a logical manner? I sincerely doubt it, and those who anguish as adults for recollections of terror so many years ago, live their lives in fear of shame and questioning their own sanity. This is the final, ugly, painful and eternal legacy of childhood abuse, regardless of the perpetrator. It is a condition that can never heal and for most, they will never be able to do more than keep the wound covered, not because it will get better, but so they do not have to look at it. The worst of those perpetrations are those from those whom we are conditioned to trust and provide us refuge in our hearts an souls from all of lifes horrors. To those who understand this, the only hope is to find peace in some fashion that allows a life to be lived in some form of celebration and hence their prayer is not to undo the reality but to forget it.
  3. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 30, 2012 9:25 am
    Or, better, if I told literally the whole world that your dead father raped me when I was a child.... You might think, "gee, before we put Dad's name on a list of confirmed rapists for the public to see for eternity, I think that woman should give the public a chance to hear the story.
  4. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 30, 2012 9:23 am
    I think she owes an explanation because she has accused three people of the most horrific of crimes, made it public, and insists on continuing to make it public forevermore. I think there is a good chance that she is wrong, at least about some of her allegations.

    That's why. If I went to a microphone and stated that your husband sexually abused me last night, called the papers and insisted that his name be forever tarnished, I think you would feel I should provide some details to the public. It's no different.
  5. rabbithunter
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    rabbithunter - August 30, 2012 1:07 am
    Getinvolved,

    Here is the deal--I do know her, she is a friend of mine. Yes, there are many facts in this case that have remained completely hidden, but not by her choice. The Diocese filed bankruptcy, so there is technically no way her report of abuse can be tried in a civil court, which would make it public record. I do not think it is fair to try someone who finds the courage and strength to speak out against this abuse in a court of public opinion.

    I understand that Fr. Dawson was your friend and that you knew him as one type of person; my friend obviously knew him as another. I do not believe that anyone is demanding that you believe or disbelieve her, but name-calling is childish. My friend has worked incredibly hard to heal from the wounds of abuse that she suffered as a child. She cooperated to the fullest extent with the Diocese throughout their investigation of her report and has the documentation to prove that. The Chairperson of the Review Board said she was credible; they sent her a letter stating as much, but now the Review Board does not want to list the names of these priests or comply with other facets of the non-monetary agreement which are requirements of the bankruptcy.

    My friend has maintained the utmost dignity and class throughout this process. She has finally found her voice after decades of silence, and yet she has been treated shamefully by this Diocese. Why you think she owes you an explanation is beyond me, but she doesn't.
  6. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 29, 2012 12:37 pm
    And, by the way, I also think it's possible that she is a whack job in part because she was abused. Just not by Dawson.
  7. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 29, 2012 12:36 pm
    I would also like to know the details of the abuse she claims against each individual priest. I believe it is possible that someone abused her (a man with gray hair?) and she believes others did as well.
  8. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 29, 2012 12:34 pm
    I have been fully, fully in favor of prosecuting abusive priests throughout the last several years, where possible. Where it's not possible to prosecute, I have always been in favor of monetary payments to victims, treatment for victims, any and all things to try to both punish the people responsible (going all the way up the Church hierarchy to popes, as far as I am concerned). I simply believe that this woman, while she probably believes it all herself, is wrong.

    I know what credibility is, thank you. I would like to know what else the letter said and what else was said to her by anyone involved. I would like to know about her psychological care, whether she remembered it before the treatment or the "memory" came to her during treatment. I believe often therapists put memories into people's minds.

    If you do know her and know any of this, I would really appreciate the information. I fully, fully and positively believe Fr. Dawson is innocent because I knew him. I know you fully believe this woman because you know her. But there are many many facts that are left completely hidden -- I assume because of this woman's privacy rights. But if she wants us to believe her, which seems extremely important to her, the facts should be brought forth in public.
  9. mondaymorning
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    mondaymorning - August 28, 2012 4:58 pm
    The attorney representing the diocese is also the one representing the Durant School Board vs. Monica Rouse. On those grounds alone, I side with this lady.
  10. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 28, 2012 4:15 pm
    tomasina:
    +1
  11. jgv1
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    jgv1 - August 28, 2012 1:32 pm
    +1 again...
  12. jgv1
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    jgv1 - August 28, 2012 1:31 pm
    +1 rabbithunter.... these people in denial... look at what Stacey Honowitz deals with out of the state of Florida.... on going issue regardless if you are a priest or not
  13. rabbithunter
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    rabbithunter - August 27, 2012 11:12 pm
    Getinvolved,
    In response to your earlier posts, the "committee" to which you refer is actually called a Review Board. You stated that "clearly they did not believe he had abused her." Why, then, did they state in their letter "please understand we are NOT saying we don't believe you--we do"? Why, after thorough investigation, would they use those specific words (again, the emphasis is theirs) and then change the rules?

    According to dictionary.com:

    cred·i·ble [kred-uh-buhl]

    adjective
    1. capable of being believed; believable: a credible statement.
    2. worthy of belief or confidence; trustworthy: a credible witness.

    How, then, is one believed but not credible?


    GEM and Alligator:
    She knows that she was abused. The Review Board believes her, according to their own letter. The arbitrator believed her; she was awarded a monetary settlement. She has not tarnished anyone's reputation--they made that choice for themselves decades ago. It was only a matter of time before the truth came out.

    dlmh60:
    Yes. Really.

  14. rabbithunter
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    rabbithunter - August 27, 2012 9:43 pm
    Dear getinvolved,

    I do know the "whack job" personally; I am proud to call her a friend. She has received (and I have seen) a letter from the Review Board of the Davenport Diocese which very clearly states, more than once, that they believe her. In the letter, the Review Board Chairperson states, "Please understand that we are NOT saying we don't believe you--we do." (emphasis theirs--bolded in the letter) In addition to the letter from the Review Board, she has a letter spelling out the arbitrator's decision, which was the basis of her financial settlement. So yes, getinvolved, I believe her.
  15. tomasina
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    tomasina - August 27, 2012 8:56 pm
    false accusations are a proven reality, false memory is a proven reality, vulnerable clients being suggestible to leading questions by an incompetent or unethical therapist is a proven reality.....
    not saying that is what has happened in this case, none of us know what happened or didn't happen, but you can't be in denial on either side......
  16. jgv1
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    jgv1 - August 27, 2012 7:14 pm
    +1 VEGAS
  17. jgv1
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    jgv1 - August 27, 2012 7:08 pm
    How come they don't speak out before (sooner)? This is common for most children.... I am not really into the news with stories as these as it is really disturbing.... to grab the paper to see this on the front page is reality but also disturbing...

    Some postings here sticking up for the priest to their churches are obviously in denial.... put yourself as a parent of having a daughter that went through this and reconsider what you would really post on the comments here... Yes the truth does hurt...
  18. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 27, 2012 5:29 pm
    I agree about the Catholic Church. They have zero credibility on any level. Digger Dawson had credibility. And this woman has none. The church was paying people off left and right under the bankruptcy settlement. I wouldn't be surprised if this woman actually believes what she is saying, but a payment under that system most certainly does not equal a credible claim against Dawson. Clearly they did not believe he had abused her. They found many, many claims against many priests to be credible, but not this one. That doesn't make you question it at all? Then you, maryjane, are the one who had drank kool-aid and believes something without any rational thought whatsoever.
  19. maryjane
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    maryjane - August 27, 2012 3:52 pm
    Calling her a whack job, getinvolved? Do YOU know her personally? She won a settlement in arbitration. That says something. The Roman Catholic Church has NO credibility:if you are still drinking the KoolAid, maybe you'd better look in the mirror next time you call somebody a whack job.D
  20. senor citizen
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    senor citizen - August 27, 2012 3:48 pm
    Why are these cases almost always so old that prosecution is not possible due to the statute of limitations? How come these people don't speak out before, it's hard to get your head around something that appears to have a conspiracy of silence for so many years. Maybe there should be no statute of limitations on sex crimes. Also maybe the Church hierarchy should be prosecuted for these cover-ups. Why anyone would keep membership in such a religious group is irrational beyond belief. I have sympathy for those abused, however when they wait many years to step forward I question why?
  21. drelvis
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    drelvis - August 27, 2012 3:25 pm
    I knew Digger my whole life. I also had a close relative whom I loved dearly who was a priest who was named as a pedophile in the earlier investigations. I pray for the damage done to the victims by my relative and believe that he was a perpetrator. But I DO NOT believe that Digger was.
  22. jgv1
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    jgv1 - August 27, 2012 3:24 pm
    Sometimes the truth hurts.... this has become common across the nation, come on people stop backing up the guilty.... when she said her parents knew is because of their sick relationship they had with the guilty...
  23. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 27, 2012 2:03 pm
    He was on his death bed, vegas. He died within a couple of months of when she first made the allegation. That hardly means he was ashamed of anything. He was very, very sick.
  24. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 27, 2012 1:50 pm
    Maryjane, how do you think you know this whack job isn't just another whack job? Everyone she accuses, from the priests to her parents, are dead. Do you know her? Did you know her parents or any of the people she accused? Do you have the same information the committee had?

    No? I didn't think so.
  25. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 27, 2012 1:46 pm
    The judge did not find her credible. He ordered that the names be posted because she had received payment from the committee even though they did not find her credible.

    Read up on the committee. You clearly have not.
  26. maryjane
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    maryjane - August 27, 2012 1:18 pm
    For those who doubt her story because they don't thinik parents would allow such a thing: unfortunately, parental participation in abuse is far too common. Parents have been known to sell their children into prostitution, and that doesn't mean putting them in a red dress and having them stand on a street corner. It means taking money in exchange for allowing men to use them. And the priests who rape children do communicate with each other: they share their trophies, knowing a child who's been raped once is easier to manipulate and keep under their control. Wish I didn't know what I do, but I do.
  27. dlmh60
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    dlmh60 - August 27, 2012 12:35 pm
    Three different priests all came to her house and all abused her and her parents knew it? Come on! There are bad apples here and there, but this one child knew three of them? And her parents let them all do it? Really?
  28. opie1
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    opie1 - August 27, 2012 11:04 am
    Is it just a coincidence that Sandusky and many of his pedophile friends were catholics?
  29. opie1
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    opie1 - August 27, 2012 10:43 am
    I`ll take her word any day of the week over a pack of old men willing to continue the cover up for hundreds if not thousands of pedophiles and abusers still lurking in the dark halls using the cover of religion to hide what they are doing.

    The only thing that will clear the name of the church is the total and complete release of every record and name of suspected or confirmed abuse by members of the church since the first case of pedophilia was disclosed. Anything less just adds to the cover up mentality they continue to embrace.
  30. opie1
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    opie1 - August 27, 2012 10:37 am
    Sure could have fooled me. It`s become the incubator for child abuse world wide and all the leadership does is cover it up.
  31. opie1
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    opie1 - August 27, 2012 10:35 am
    This is the same organization that has been invited to speak at the GOP convention. The same one who has hidden pedophiles for years. The same one who demands no contraception or access to abortion even in cases of rape and incest. The very same one that believes as an employer in the market place, they have the right to demand even atheist and non-catholic`s, follow their doctrine and not complain about the Affordable Care Act rules on birth control.

    After all this, I`ll side with this lady since it`s obvious to me that the catholic church leaders have no concept of what being truthful is. The fact that an arbitrator found her to be credible enough to get a judgment against these clowns is good enough for me. Explain how anyone can continue to support this type idiotic belief`s and the cover ups that go with those beliefs Are catholic really the sheeple they appear to be?
  32. ExQC911
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    ExQC911 - August 27, 2012 10:26 am
    Let's see -- a Judge finds the allegations to be credible and a church committee does not - now who do you think is more believable??? And since when is the group (the church) which is being accused of a crime the one that gets to form a committee to look into those allegations
  33. citylaughs
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    citylaughs - August 27, 2012 10:21 am
    For many of us, Father Dawson was an inspiration and a wonderful priest. It is sad to think that another person perceives him to be something else. We will never know the truth. Now all that is left is the need for healing, forgiveness, peace and therapy. Putting names on a list will not give this woman those things.
    My Catholic faith has given me nothing but strength and understanding. I hope Ms. Bowman is able to find the good in people and move forward to a happy life.
  34. getinvolved
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    getinvolved - August 27, 2012 9:58 am
    This poor woman is nuts. Her parents knew these men were abusing her, and kept inviting them to spend nights in their house? Come on. There are most certainly reasons the committee that found hundreds of allegations to be credible also found hers not to be.
    Digger Dawson was not an abuser. No way. I know, "abusers don't have horns and tails," blah blah blah, but little girls also grow up to be nuts sometimes.
  35. VEGAS
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    VEGAS - August 27, 2012 9:57 am
    You are indenial of the facts. So if the Vatican can hide and protect these animals and never allow them to be exposed they are innocent? Get a life!
  36. VEGAS
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    VEGAS - August 27, 2012 9:56 am
    If Dawson had nothing to hide or be ashambed of he should have met with this woman,obviously that is not the case. I just love the glowing endorsements by friends of these animals as if they could never have done such a horrible thing. Some of the sickest members of society on the surface were wonderful people who contibuted to society. The Vatican should be hit with a bomb and the priests they hide and protect hung at high noon in town square until society is rid of these animals.
  37. Alligator
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    Alligator - August 27, 2012 9:47 am
    I agree with GEM. There is no trial, just a hearing before a judge. Nearly anyone could accuse a priest. No one knows if she really got abused or not. Its just her word.
  38. D-port Citizen
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    D-port Citizen - August 27, 2012 8:18 am
    I hope that by returning to the Catholic Church that she finds healing and peace - even joy. Welcome home.
  39. kerry
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    kerry - August 27, 2012 7:41 am
    just a reminder child abuse or any other kind of sexual abuse is not just limited or located to the catholic churches..
  40. FredMertz51
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    FredMertz51 - August 27, 2012 7:14 am
    Matt 5:39-41. Oh wait, never mind, The Church hires the best lawyers and fights it to the end. Hipocrits.
  41. maryjane
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    maryjane - August 27, 2012 7:08 am
    Unfortunately, those who commit sex crimes against children don't have horns and a red tail. They look like anybody else and often appear to be fine, upstanding citizens: think "Jerry Sandusky," who had a whole lot of people in Pennsylvania fooled. The church doesn't give settlements without good reason. I believe this woman, and I applaud her for coming forward. I do not understand her desire to return to the RCC, but I wish her peace on her journey.
  42. barbara dorris
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    barbara dorris - August 27, 2012 7:06 am
    It takes tremendous courage to report abuse and this brave woman like os many others reported her abuse to help others and protect children.
    We want to believe that child molesters are dirty old men hiding in hte bushes but intruth theya re usually charming charismatic people who often do many good things but they also hurt children and destroy lives.
    Kathleen Bowman is a hero!
    Barbara Dorris
    Outreach Director
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
    314-862-7688
    snapdorris@gmail.com
  43. GEM
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    GEM - August 27, 2012 5:38 am
    I thought that in America, one was innocent until proven guilty. Now, one person can accuse someone of something and tarnish their reputation. Father Dawson was a wonderful priest. I'll never believe this of him. He was a peaceful man. May he RIP.
  44. RRRay
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    RRRay - August 27, 2012 12:10 am
    I agree. This stinks. Father Dawson was the finest man I've ever known. I hope she enjoys her money, as it must mean a great deal to her. Me, I'll just remain thankful for having known Digger, and be content with the values he shared, and the example he lived. I won't say anything more disparaging about this woman.
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