Priests Cannot Be Charged With Former Sexual Abuse Despite New Iowa Law


Ryan j foley

Roman Catholic priests who victimized Iowa children decades ago cannot be prosecuted despite a new law eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, the state attorney general has said.

The law, signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds last month, does not apply to cases where the statute of limitations has already expired, Attorney General Tom Miller’s office said on Wednesday in its report which found the number of abuse in the Catholic Church “overwhelming”. “

This means that victims of child abuse who are currently 33 years and older will not be able to prosecute their abusers because they missed the reporting deadline. They also cannot prosecute perpetrators and officials who concealed the abuses because the law did not change the civil statute of limitations.

â–º More this week:Iowa Attorney General’s Report Examines Dozens of ‘Overwhelming’ Sexual Abuse Complaints Against Catholic Priests

At least nine retired or defrocked priests and a retired nun have recently been charged with decades-old abuse in Iowa and are still alive, according to victim complaint summaries received by Miller’s office. They include Reverend Jerome Coyle, who allegedly admitted in 1986 to sexually assaulting dozens of Iowa boys before church officials transferred him to New Mexico.

Three of Coyle’s victims reported to Miller’s office that he mistreated them when he was a priest in Sanborn or Armstrong in the 1970s and 1980s. One of them said church officials no ‘had done nothing after his mother told them in 1981 that Coyle was a “sexual predator.” The church has provided financial assistance to Coyle for years and in 2018 quietly moved him to a senior center near a school in Fort Dodge.

Another man said he was a boy when Reverend George McFadden sexually assaulted him in the early 1980s at LeMars – one of 48 credible allegations against McFadden.

Coyle and McFadden, who was retired from the priesthood in 2001, no longer live in Iowa, according to the report.

â–º Previously, in 2019: Prosecutors step up scrutiny of the Catholic Church

Others who cannot be prosecuted include a former priest of a troubled public juvenile institution who was accused of sexually abusing adolescents in the 1980s and 1990s and fired for indecent contact. An administrative law judge later found the allegations to be “indeterminate” and church officials accepted that conclusion. The priest, who was not identified in the report, is retired but still has functions with the diocese of Dubuque.

Two retired Cedar Falls priests who were accused of raping a boy in the 1990s and a retired Rockwell priest accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a teenager in the 1980s are among several others who fail cannot be prosecuted.

The report noted that more than 100 clergy in the four dioceses of Iowa have been discovered by the church to have been “credibly accused” of abusing minors over the past century.

Church officials have determined that the allegations against dozens more were not credible or that the conduct was not considered abuse – determinations Miller’s office said did not always accept.

During its triennial review, Miller’s office received 45 complaints of sexual misconduct against clergy or others involved in the Catholic Church dating from the 1930s to 1997.

Sixteen were against priests or others not on the “credible accused” lists, and three were against active priests. Several victims have come forward for the first time. In each case, the statute of limitations has already expired, according to the report.

The report praised those who reported abuse and noted that they had access to advice and other resources.

“No matter how old the charge is, these reports can lead to healing and reform,” the report said.

Iowa was the 14th state to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.

During a debate in April, Iowa Senate Speaker Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said attackers “shouldn’t get a free pass just because the victim failed to show up. not manifested before an arbitrary deadline “.

Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, called the bill “a step in the right direction,” but warned it would still create a distinction between those who can seek justice and those who cannot. She said this should be corrected by amending the law to allow older victims to bring civil lawsuits.

“I wish I had better news … for all of the people who are Baby Boomers who are not covered, and Gen X who are not covered and half of Gen Y will not be covered by this.” , she said.

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