(Davenport, IA) The Davenport Diocese went back to court Wednesday accused of not complying with its settlement for victims of sexual abuse. Lawyers for the Davenport Diocese and those representing abuse victims battled it out in Federal Court, but it was the battle of one victim that captured the courts attention.
Stephen Alex, formerly of Davenport, testified that as a child at Saint Vincent’s, he was forced to perform oral sex on a priest in a basement room, abuse he says went on for a few years. He then shocked the court when said on the stand, “I’m a dysfunctional carbon unit on the edge of suicide and I will wash my mouth out with buckshot if someone doesn’t help,” Alex said.
“You have to understand the shame and guilt and just the sick thoughts that go through your mind. I’m in the middle of a nervous breakdown, but I look good don’t I? Its called a whitewash tomb, you’re all pretty and white on the outside, but rotting on the inside,” says Alex.
The problem, Alex hadn’t gotten counseling within 60 days of his claim being settled, a clause listed in the settlement. When he tried to get the Davenport Diocese leader, Bishop Martin Amos, to help him get counseling, he says church leaders basically told him to pound sand.
“I never heard from them, my life has been getting more intense, if you will, and I got tired of waiting so I came up,” says Alex, who now lives in Texas.
In court the Diocese leaders remembered his phone calls and said they directed him to contact the lawyers representing the abuse victims. Lawyers for the Diocese said the church was not required to perform this service as laid out by the settlement. The judge said she recognized the legal language may not have been on his side, but in the spirit of the intent of the settlement, she directed the Diocese to help Alex get the counseling he needed.
“I think she spanked the Bishop pretty good, which he had coming. Can you imagine that man would’ve gotten any help if he hadn’t said what he said about washing his mouth out with buckshot? Instead of saying we’ll take care of this, (Bishop Amos) has to wait for a judge to tell him what to do. They’re more than monetarily bankrupt, they’re morally bankrupt as well,” says David, an abuse victim who lives in Burlington.
“I thought I could do this myself, intellectually, but I’m sorry I can’t, you need help, you need a professional. So if I helped get that term broadened for all the folks that was really my true intent. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says Alex.
Other issues argued in court were whether the Diocese had posted plaques in all dioceses schools on the subject of sexual abuse, whether they had made sure all priests had signed affidavits regarding any knowledge of sexual abuse, whether the Diocese had released abuse allegations to the Vatican’s US representative and whether Diocese leader, Bishop Amos, has publicly supported the elimination of a criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. On the last point, the judge told the Bishop it was one of the shortcomings she’d like to see improved in the next year. But overall, the judge was satisfied that the Davenport Diocese was in compliance with the settlement terms.
The judge adjourned by ordering the two sides to come to a consensus on the counseling issue for abuse victims and bring her their consensus in three weeks time.
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