Government

Clergy abuse records sought by Iowa attorney general

Tom Miller's office also launches hotline to report abuse

A silver cross. (The Gazette file photo)
A silver cross. (The Gazette file photo)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has sent letters to the dioceses of Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Sioux City requesting information by Aug. 1 on records of clergy sexual abuse.

Miller’s office also has launched a hotline (855-620-7000) for survivors to call to report abuse. Trained advocates will be available to gather information from survivors.

Survivors also can fill out a questionnaire at iowaattorneygeneral.gov. (A Spanish-language version is available.)

An investigator will review reports and may seek more information. The identities of survivors will remain confidential.

In the letters to the bishops, the Iowa attorney general said his office has met with survivors of abuse by clergy and invited victims to contact the office.

“In some cases, their stories have never been made public. These survivors have urged us to investigate and bring attention to the injustice they and others have suffered,” Miller wrote. “We agree that full transparency is necessary to provide justice and ultimately, reconciliation and healing.”

Miller said he appreciated that bishops met with him and made public the lists of credibly accused priests.

“But we believe that in this context, a credible third-party review is warranted,” the attorney general added.

Miller is seeking records and files on several topics, including lists of all priests, deacons, or other clergy who have been deemed as “credibly accused” and “not credible” accusations of sexual abuse by the dioceses, as well as the definition of “credibly accused,” “sexual misconduct” and “sexual abuse.”

The attorney general also is requesting notes from meetings of diocesan boards of reviews that were convened to consider accusations; documentation of reports of abuse received by diocesan officials and actions taken; and copies of all settlement agreements that diocesan officials entered into with abuse survivors.

Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said the Catholic bishops of Iowa are pledging cooperation with Miller’s request for information to be voluntarily provided regarding clergy sexual abuse so the Attorney General’s Office can provide a credible third-party review of the response made to reports.

“Each diocese, in the interest of transparency and accountability, plans to comply with the attorney general’s request,” Chapman said in a statement. “In fact, most of the information requested is already a matter of public record.

“Also, the efforts of each diocese to protect minors from clergy sexual abuse have for many years now been subject to an annual credible third-party review,” added Chapman.

“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.”

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, praised Miller’s actions.

“While the attorney general’s request of the Catholic dioceses was limited only to clergy, I am hopeful he will expand the scope of the investigation to include any sex abuse reported in their dioceses,” Petersen said in a statement.

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She also called on the Legislature next session to pass meaningful legislation “to remove Iowa’s criminal and civil statute of limitations and give adult survivors a five-year period to seek justice.”

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