News: Diocese issues response to report from Iowa Attorney General
June 23, 2021
The Diocese of Des Moines issued a response to a report from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office:
The Diocese is committed to safety, transparency, and accountability in every aspect possible regarding the protection of children and young people.
If even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor is admitted or established, the offender is removed permanently from ministry and their name is added to those in the disclosure section of our website (dmdiocese.org/victim-assistance/priest-abuse-list).
Since 2003, the Diocese has mandated background checks, including those for child sex offender registry, for all who spend any time with children through our parishes, schools and institutions. This includes priests, deacons, seminarians (those training to be priests), as well as teachers, coaches, and any volunteer ministering to children. During this same period, ongoing training has been conducted to build a culture of awareness, accountability and safety. To date, we have conducted 21,849 background checks and 17,683 safe environment trainings.
As the AG’s report noted, since the early 2000s, the Diocese has maintained the practice of immediately notifying law enforcement of any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, no matter how much time has passed since the alleged incident. Every allegation is forwarded to the law enforcement jurisdiction(s) in question.
Those seeking to report abuse do not need to do so through the church. A Victim Assistance Advocate serves as a 3rd party not employed by the Church. Polk County Crisis and Advocacy has provided a staff member since the early 2000s, with Sam Porter the current advocate.
The Diocese remains transparent with the public while respecting the rights of victims and accused.
“The report brought to light that policies and procedures are in place to protect people and ensure justice is served so the Church achieves a high standard of integrity in the ministries it offers,” said Bishop William Joensen. “We, as a diocese, are committed to rigorous standards of accountability. I want to ensure that the Diocese is committed to the safety of children.”
The Diocese is accountable to civil and church (also known as canon) law. While law enforcement investigates complaints, the Diocese is served by a group mostly comprised of lay people who have expertise in law enforcement, the judicial system, psychology, and services to youth. This Allegation Review Committee assists the Bishop in his review of allegations under investigation and determines whether there is the semblance of truth to move forward in the canonical process. The committee has been involved in all of the allegations received by the Diocese since the early 2000s.
The Diocese is required to file annual reports to an independent auditing firm, and every three years receives an onsite audit. The Diocese has received a compliant certification each year since the audits began in the mid-2000s.
To report sexual abuse by clergy, contact Sam Porter at 515-286-2015 or Sam.Porter@polkcountyiowa.gov.
Here is a link to a statement from the Iowa Catholic Conference.
The Diocese of Des Moines includes 80 parishes in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa.