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Three-year investigation reveals decades of clergy abuse


By Kayla James

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    DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) — A report nearly three years in the making by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office says the Catholic Church in Iowa has a long history of sexual abuse, but acknowledged they’ve made recent strides to better how they handle it.

Attorney General Tom Miller’s office started to pursue the investigation in 2018.

The report released Wednesday concludes priests sexually abused minors in Iowa for decades and church leaders covered it up. However, it finds reforms were put in place in 2002 and only five Iowa priests have been accused of misconduct since then.

S0me of the reforms include immediately reaching out to police after an allegation is made, removing the offender in question from ministry, and putting their names on the disclosure website on each diocese website.

“The main thing is that we just never ever want this to happen even one time again,” Attorney General Miller stressed on Wednesday afternoon.

The Attorney General’s Office says none of the complaints can be criminally prosecuted because they aren’t within the statute of limitations.

Miller says even the law passed by legislators this session, eliminating the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges for sexual abuse-related crimes against minors wouldn’t hold in this instance.

“Once a statute of limitations is extended, the people whose statute has actually run out–they cannot be charged,” Miller explained.

West Des Moines Attorney Pat Hopkins, who is representing some survivors of clergy abuse, disagrees.

“Even that now I think is called into question by the change in Iowa law,” Hopkins said.

But if criminal prosecution isn’t possible, Hopkins says there’s another option.

“There’s always the possibility of a civil lawsuit — not only against the perpetrator — but the organizations that employ these perpetrators,” Hopkins explained.

After decades of handling sexual abuse cases, Hopkins says before pursuing anything legal the survivor needs to take care of themselves.

“You have to hit a place where you’re comfortable mentally to protect yourself from the kind of fallout of that abuse,” Hopkins said.

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