Davenport Diocese: 4 clergy added to abuse list

Associated Press/November 4, 2008

Des Moines, Iowa - A church panel on Monday announced that there is evidence that four clergy members who served in the Diocese of Davenport have sexually abused minors.

The panel of lawyers, supported by the Vatican, cleared a fifth person.

The diocese added Joseph Hines, Eugene Smith, Lawrence Soens and Gerald Stouvenel to a list of those who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The list will be posted on the diocese's Web site.

Hines is dead, Smith has been defrocked by the Vatican and Soens' case has been sent to Rome for a decision. Stouvenel has not been defrocked and works in the diocese, though not with children.

One person previously accused of abusing a minor was cleared by the panel. The decision to find Monsignor Drake Shafer not guilty was confirmed by the Vatican.

"That Monsignor Shafer was found not guilty is good news," said diocese Deacon David Montgomery. "He'll be returned to the ministry. It's unfortunate news about the findings of the others, but we are sure this process was carried out correctly.

"It's been a long process and we're near completion."

The church's review board found that allegations that Stouvenel, a priest, had sexually abused three male minors in the 1970s was credible.

Soens, a bishop, was accused of sexually abusing students at Iowa City Regina High School in the 1950s and 1960s when he was its principal. He was also accused of sexually abusing a male minor when he was the rector at St. Ambrose Seminary.

Smith was accused by a female minor of abuse in the 1960s. Hines was accused by both male and female minors in the 1940s.

Monday's announcement is the latest development in a lengthy abuse scandal that has plagued the diocese. In May, a bankruptcy judge approved a plan allowing the diocese to pay $37 million to more than 150 people who say they were sexually abused by diocese priests.

The diocese had filed for bankruptcy in October 2006, saying it did not have the money to settle the claims stemming from its cases stretching back for decades.

Davenport is one of six dioceses in the United States to file for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse scandals. The others are based in Portland, Ore.; Spokane, Wash.; Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego; and Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Davenport diocese and creditors reached a settlement in November 2007 that calls for the diocese to pay $17.5 million, with the rest coming from its insurance carrier, Travelers Cos. of St. Paul., Minn. It had already paid nearly $10.7 million to 45 other victims since 2004.

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