DAVENPORT, Iowa — Two different standards for determining credibility of clergy sexual abuse claims compelled a bankruptcy judge to order the names of three deceased priests to be posted on the Diocese of Davenport website.
Diocesan leaders believe the 40-year-old accusations against the three priests are not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Davenport Bishop Martin J. Amos decided Sept. 4 not to appeal the judge’s decision. However, the list will include an explanation that accusations against the three priests were not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.
“The names had already been made public in the press and the judge told us to post the names, so we will comply,” Bishop Amos said. “We will also provide our rationale for the conclusion we reached about the accusations.”
Kathleen Bowman, the Iowa woman who made the accusations, received a settlement from the bankruptcy court’s special arbitrator based on her claims. She said she was abused as a young child by the three priests: Frs. John Bonn, Michael Broderick and William Dawson, and she identified them by name in articles published in the Quad-City Times this summer.
She further claimed that the diocese has failed to comply with nonmonetary bankruptcy requirements by not placing these names on the diocese’s website list of credibly accused clergy and lay people. Thirty-two names of credibly accused individuals were listed on the website before the three new names were added.
The Review Board, composed of seven individuals – both clergy and lay people – was formed 10 years ago by the Davenport Diocese in accordance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
“Our job is to review information presented by survivors, investigators and the accused and then advise Bishop Martin Amos in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons and their suitability for ministry,” said Chris McCormick Pries, who chairs the Review Board.
“We recognize that sexual abuse of children is a heinous crime when committed by anyone, but especially so when the perpetrator is a trusted adult such as a parish priest,” she added. “The ripple effect of this abuse wreaks havoc with the lives of the survivors and their family and friends. We also know how devastating it is when innocent individuals are accused of this crime and unable to defend themselves and their reputation. Therefore, each case is reviewed with serious and comprehensive deliberation.
“In this particular case, we had no doubt that the individual had suffered in her life. However, there was no evidence presented that would attach the abuse to these three deceased priests,” said McCormick Pries, who has years of experience in mental health nursing.
“In many of the cases that come to the Review Board, the situations occurred years ago and individuals are relying on decades-old memories that can become distorted over time. Most of these individuals have suffered abuse, but not necessarily abuse by priests,” McCormick Pries said.
Court-appointed private investigator James Sweeney performed an exhaustive investigation of Bowman’s claim that she was abused by the three priests. That investigation included an interview with her sister, who contradicted many details of the claim, said Rand Wonio, an attorney for the diocese.
The Review Board examined hundreds of pages of documents and met at length with Bowman and her attorney before determining that evidence of abuse by the three priests was not sufficiently corroborated.