By Barb Arland-Fye
Individuals concerned about the Davenport Diocese’s compliance with nonmonetary obligations in its bankruptcy settlement should have to state concerns in writing before an Oct. 7 court hearing, an attorney for the diocese says.
Attorney Richard Davidson of Lane & Waterman LLP filed a petition Sept. 9 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa rebutting claims that the diocese has failed to comply with nonmonetary obligations and requesting the court to require complainants to file concerns in writing.
Bankruptcy Judge Lee Jackwig ordered the Oct. 7 hearing in response to an Aug. 18 request from Robert Berger, settlement trustee for the diocese’s bankruptcy case.
At issue are 18 items in the nonmonetary agreement the Davenport Diocese made with clergy sexual abuse survivors and their representatives as part of a $37 million bankruptcy settlement that took effect June 9, 2008.
Among the points of contention: Bishop Martin Amos’ alleged failure to publicly support complete elimination of all criminal statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse; the diocese’s alleged failure to release the written report provided to the Apostolic Nuncio with regard to retired Bishop Lawrence Soens (who is accused of having abused minors while he was priest in the Davenport Diocese); the diocese’s alleged failure to disclose priest affidavits and make those affidavits meaningful; and the alleged failure to provide evidence of the unobstructed posting of plaques in schools.
In an earlier interview with The Catholic Messenger, Davidson noted: “the nonmonetary items were negotiated word for word … we followed them to the letter.”
Davidson said in his Sept. 9 petition that Bishop Amos has publicly stated his support for complete elimination of all criminal statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, citing a June 11, 2009 article in The Catholic Messenger and remarks the bishop has made during parish visits over the last year.
Regarding Bishop Soens, Davidson said the nonmonetary agreement doesn’t require the diocese to release the written report. He also said the diocese’s progress report dated May 21, 2009, “specifically states that six reports were sent from the bishop to the Apostolic Nuncio, the most recent being June 5, 2008.”
All priests and Bishop Amos also have provided affidavits that they have never sexually abused a minor or know of any other priest or employee of the diocese who has abused anyone. Those affidavits have been placed in each priest’s personnel files. “It is not clear how the forms could be made more ‘meaningful,’” Davidson said.
Plaques containing information about sexual abuse and the diocese’s commitment to protect children have been posted in diocesan schools, as agreed to in the nonmonetary settlement.
“The diocese in its Progress Report provided full and complete evidence that unobstructed plaques have been posted in all of the schools, including pictures of each plaque,” Davidson said.
Berger in his petition said he intended to notify all tort claimants in the bankruptcy case about the hearing and that they or their representatives would have an opportunity to be heard.
Davidson responded in the diocese’s petition: “The diocese requests that the court direct the settlement trustee to advise each person who wishes to be heard at the hearing to submit the particulars of his or her concerns, in writing, to the court and to the diocese no later than Sept. 29, 2009. These may be submitted through the settlement trustee’s counsel so that the bishop and the diocese can prepare a meaningful response for the hearing.”
Having written statements in advance would also allow the diocese an opportunity to respond to these concerns and to prepare further reports and exhibits, as necessary, before the hearing date, Davidson said.