Davenport Priests Broke Trust and as a Result Were Transferred for ProtectionSerial sexual abusers like Rev. Jerome Coyle were not always disciplined by the Church, in fact, they were transferred from parish to parish where oftentimes their egregious behavior continued. Unfortunately, these types of transfers occurred all too often. Priests who faced allegations of abuse were often confronted by Bishops and others—even when they admitted to this behavior, rather than filing a report with the police, the Archdiocese took steps to remedy the problem on their own. These remedies were not known until years later when the controversy erupted into the public space. Oftentimes, abusers were subjected to treatment—without any way to measure the effectiveness of the treatment—and then reassigned to either another parish or allowed to work as a layperson among more potential victims. In fact, BishopAccountability.org found that more than 40 percent of Davenport parishes served as the home parish for priests who had credible allegations of sexual abuse filed against them.
Response by Davenport Archdiocese Found LackingInitially, the response by the Archdiocese was to make excuses, or claim that abuse allegations were false. Until Attorney General Tom Miller forced the church's hand and requested specific documentation there was a veil of silence cast over claims. This silence dated back several years but perhaps the most significant issue was the Franklin Report, which was issued as a result of an internal investigation. The Franklin Report named for Bishop William E. Franklin was hailed as a first step towards transparency. However, upon looking closer at this report, many issues were ignored or were only half-reported. Some examples include:
- Reassignment of priests - The report only covered the reassignment history of five priests who were accused despite the official record showing several times that number had been accused.
- Laicized priests - Only five of the accused priests involved in the scandal resulted in the Bishop requesting the Vatican to laicize (reduce to lay status) despite credible allegations against many more.
- Ignored allegations - In some cases, there were accused (and in some cases convicted) priests who were not included in the Franklin Report. In other cases, only some allegations against them were included in the final report.
- Incomplete investigations - The Archdiocese insisted they had problems verifying some allegations due to the accused priest having passed away or their inability to determine the location of victims.
Davenport Archdiocese Handling of Sexual Assault and Abuse ComplaintsFrom the early 80s until the mid-2000s, it is estimated the church paid out as much as $750 million in settlements to help keep this scandal quiet. These payouts were done quietly, and payments were made directly to the families of victims. However, the methods used to convince families to accept the settlements were questioned later when the entire scandal broke into the public realm. Families told stories of being intimidated by those who were in some of the highest offices of the archdiocese. Threats and intimidation were common tactics to get families to accept quiet settlements and avoid the involvement of law enforcement when allegations were investigated and found to be truthful. During 2006, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The expectation was this would prevent them from having to pay any additional damages to victims. The church claimed they were in unprecedented territory having already paid out millions to victims and their families. Davenport was certainly not the first Diocese to take this approach, only the most recent. With more than 105,000 parishioners worshipping in 84 parishes spreading across 22 counties in Iowa, there were certain to be more allegations and the fear was the church would quickly run out of cash to continue settling the allegations which were proving to be truthful.
Focusing on Victims of Davenport Priest Sexual AbuseIn February 2019, reports indicated that between 1948 and 1995 priests sexually abused more than 100 victims in Iowa. Twenty-eight priests were credibly accused while the credibility of other allegations remained in dispute. Victims and their families were often left feeling like they had no alternative except to remain silent. Many of the accused priests were no longer living at the time the scandal erupted, meaning victims could never face their abusers. While the archdiocese now has a practice of running background checks for those who volunteer or work for the archdiocese, many feel this is too little, too late. Many of the accusers have never come forward, and there is still a possibility that abusers are still active within the Davenport Archdiocese or in other areas of the country.
Why Victims of Davenport Sexual Abuse Remain SilentOne of the many challenges faced by parents, loved ones, and those who regularly interact with a child who is a victim of sexual abuse never learn about the abuse until many years later. Victims of childhood sexual abuse nearly always remain silent. This phenomenon is not unique to children. Studies show that adult survivors of rape or other sexual abuse often do not come forward. Some of the reasons why children who experience sexual abuse remain silent include:
- Does not blame accuser - Unfortunately, children often feel they have done something wrong and therefore are less likely to tell an adult they are being abused or molested. While this is misguided, it is hard to explain to a child, particularly one who is abused by a well known and respected person, they are not to blame.
- Fear of retaliation - Abusers often threaten their victims with harm to themselves or a family member. This type of fear is palpable because victims often are worried if they do share their secret then they are jeopardizing the health and well-being of someone they care about.
- Feelings of shame - Children may feel a sense of shame. This is relatively common in children who are older at the time they are being abused because they understand it is wrong. However, when combined with blaming themselves and being fearful, they are ashamed of their part in the abuse.
The Long-Term Impact of Female and Male Childhood Sexual AbuseThe American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has extensive research on the implications of female childhood sexual abuse. While the study of the impact on boys is not as extensive, it is important to also understand the various ways boys may be impacted, given that many of the allegations against priests are against boys. Some potential problems men who were abused as boys could face, according to Dr. Jim Hopper, include:
- Issues with masculinity and identity
- Self-worth issues
- Guilt and self-blame
- Humiliation and shame
- Anger and fear