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2 priests suspended over allegations of touching minors

2 priests suspended over allegations of touching minors

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The Diocese of Davenport has temporarily removed two priests from their ministries after allegations surfaced that they inappropriately touched minors.

The Rev. Robert Harness, pastor at Holy Family Church, Davenport, and the Rev. John Stack, chaplain at Mercy Medical Center, Clinton, have been removed from their positions while an investigation is conducted, according to a news release Monday from Bishop Martin Amos.

The allegations have been reported to the Scott County Attorney's Office in compliance with a memorandum of understanding between the diocese and the county attorney.

Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said Monday the office will review the cases, according to the terms of the agreement.

"The diocese reports any and all allegations of sexual abuse to the county attorney’s office," Walton said in a statement. This is done without screening or investigation by the diocese regarding truth of the allegations.

"This office reviews the information provided to determine whether further investigation or filing of criminal charges is warranted," Walton said. "It would appear these most recent allegations occurred too long ago to pursue as criminal cases."

The county attorney's office determines whether the relevant statute of limitations has expired. In most cases, charges must be filed within 10 years of the complainant turning 18, according to Walton.

The accusation against Harness is that he inappropriately touched a minor sometime around 1990.

According to the diocese, Harness was the pastor at St. Mary in Keota, Iowa, from 1988 to 1992. He later served as pastor at St. Joseph in DeWitt from 1994 to 2009 while also serving at various times at churches in Grand Mound, Sugar Creek, Toronto, Lost Nation and Oxford Junction before transferring to Holy Family in 2009.

The diocese will meet with church leaders at Holy Family to "assess its immediate needs and other issues of healing that may arise," according to the news release.

The allegation against Stack is that he inappropriately touched minors in the 1980s. He first served at Holy Family in Davenport as a parochial vicar from 1988 to 1990. He has served as the chaplain at the Clinton hospital since 1994 and has served in various roles in churches in Keokuk, East Pleasant Plain, Richland, Clinton, Camanche, Lost Nation, Toronto, Oxford Junction, Sugar Creek, DeWitt, Charlotte and Grand Mound.

"We apologize, again, for all those who have been abused and continue to pray for them," Amos said in the news release.

Craig Levien, a Davenport attorney who has represented dozens of victims, said that roughly $1 million remains in a fund that was created under the settlement to compensate victims who had not yet stepped forward.

He said the allegations against Harness would be troubling to many of his clients because he provided counseling to them after they came forward.

He said the latest allegations illustrate how difficult it is for victims to report what happened.

"Even after the publicity and the bankruptcy and the notice of claims were sent out, it shows how troubled people are in trying to make a report and how no court can set a timeline or deadline on these things," he said. "The victim just has to, in their path of healing, come to a point where they can actually report it to authorities."

 

(Kurt Allemeier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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