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Iowa diocese identifies 28 priests accused of abusing minors

The Associated Press had exposed a 32-year coverup of retired Catholic priest Jerome Coyle, shown in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Associated Press had exposed a 32-year coverup of retired Catholic priest Jerome Coyle, shown in Albuquerque, N.M. (Reuben Ortiz/AP)
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IOWA CITY — At least 28 priests are credibly accused of having sexually abused more than 100 boys and girls while working for a Roman Catholic diocese in Iowa, church officials announced Monday.

The Diocese of Sioux City released a long-awaited list of those who have been the subject of credible allegations of sexual abuse involving minors.

The list included about 5 percent of the priests who have worked for the diocese at some point since its inception in 1902. A 29th priest has been accused, but his name is being withheld pending an appeal to the Vatican.

“Publishing this list is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our diocese,” said Bishop R. Walker Nickless, who released the list at a news conference. “We want it to usher in a climate of openness and transparency, resulting in the protection of our youth and accountability for clergy and church leaders.”

He said releasing information about the church’s “shameful history” might help some victims heal but could reopen old wounds for others.

Advocates for abuse victims had long urged the diocese to release such a list, as two of Iowa’s three other Roman Catholic dioceses have done.

The diocese had promised to do so in November after an investigation by the Associated Press exposed its 32-year coverup of the Rev. Jerome Coyle, who had allegedly confessed to abusing more than 50 boys over a 20-year period.

The diocese, which operates churches and schools throughout northwestern Iowa, urged victims to come forward at that time. Its review board has spent recent weeks analyzing files and weighing the credibility of allegations.

The diocese said the alleged abuse took place between 1948 and 1995 and involved 106 individuals who have come forward to make claims. Additional complaints of abuse have been made more recently, but none has been deemed credible by police or a church review board, the diocese said.

All but six of the priests on the list have died. Those who are still living are not involved in the ministry or active with children and have been stripped of their ability to celebrate Mass or represent themselves as priests, the diocese said.

The list included 39 victims of the Rev. George McFadden, whose abuse has long been documented and spawned an array of civil lawsuits, and 11 victims of the Rev. Peter Murphy.

The list does not include former Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens even though he was accused of abusing boys while he was a priest and principal. Soens, who retired as bishop in 1998, is not included on the list because the allegations date to when he worked for a different diocese.

The diocese said it had paid $4.7 million in legal settlements to 58 people since 2002.