Iowa bishops to cooperate with attorney general’s request for abuse records

Des Moines, Iowa, Jun 6, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Iowa have agreed to voluntarily hand over records on clerical sex abuse allegations in their dioceses, responding to a request made last week by the state attorney general.

“Our compliance is inspired by the teachings of Jesus and his Catholic Church: that it is right and good to respond to the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse with sorrow, repentance, amendment of life, and efforts to repair the harm done,” the bishops said in a June 3 statement.

“In this regard, if there have been failures in the past, it is not for lack of trying. And after discovering when and where our efforts have fallen short, we will try again; there is no perfection this side of heaven.”

On May 31, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller sent a letter to the four dioceses of the state, saying that he was planning a third-party review of their sex abuse records, in the interest of transparency and healing for victims.

He asked the dioceses to submit their records regarding abuse allegations by Aug. 1.

The dioceses were asked to turn over all documentation of abuse reports that they had received. They were asked for a list of all clergy who have been credibly accused, as well as accusations which the dioceses have deemed “not credible.”

In addition, the attorney general requested records of meetings held to evaluate reports of clerical misconduct or abuse; copies of settlement agreements entered into by dioceses with abuse victims; and the definitions of “sexual misconduct,” “sexual abuse,” and “credibly accused” used by the dioceses in evaluating accusations.

Miller said he has heard from victims of clerical sex abuse whose stories have not been made public. He said transparency is essential for healing, and encouraged other individuals with information on abuse to call his office.

In a response published by the Iowa Catholic Conference, the bishops said they would comply. The statement was sent on behalf of Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, and Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport.

“Each diocese, in the interest of transparency and accountability, plans to comply with the Attorney General’s request,” read the statement.

The bishops’ statement noted that most of this information is already available to the public. It added that the diocese has for years undertaken an annual third-party review.

The bishops called on Miller to fight sex abuse in society more broadly.

“It is our hope that the Attorney General will use the resources of his office to protect minors from the scourge of sexual abuse wherever it occurs, and not limit his focus just on the Catholic Church,” they said.

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