Dash - 2 bishop accused of sex abuse
The retired Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, Lawrence Soens, has been accused of abusing a student 42 years ago while he was principal of a Catholic high school. Soens is a Class of 1998 Dash-2 evacuee, retired before the statutory age of 75 in accordance with the Code of Canon Law's Canon 401-2 "for reasons of health or some other grave reason." According to the AP story:
The victim, who was younger than 18 at the time, claims the abuse began in 1963, with the improper behavior sometimes taking place in the principal's office and others when Soens arranged to meet with the student under the pretext of investigating incidents of student misconduct.
"Bishop Soens identified the (victim) as a young male child, sought and gained the trust and confidence of plaintiff as a spiritual guide, pastor, educator and priest," the lawsuit states. "Soens, while using his position of authority, trust, reverence and control ... engaged in repeated harmful and illegal sexual contact with plaintiff."
After the lapse of 40-plus years, and barring the appearance of incriminating diaries or Polaroids, who's to say whether the accuser is a scam artist or a genuine victim? Having failed to act according to its own precepts of justice in the past, the diocese has forfeited its presumption of honor and can only whine at the late hits.
The lawsuit is the first that names Soens, but it is not the only time in his 48-year career in the clergy that he has been accused of sexual misconduct. Earlier this year, Davenport Bishop William Franklin reported that Soens had been the subject of three separate sexual abuse allegations, one of which was settled out of court last fall for $20,000.
Soens's $20,000 settlement and Dash-2 exit make it reasonable to believe he was up to mischief. But suppose -- simply for the sake of argument -- that there were grounds for thinking this recent charge against Soens is false. In normal circumstances, the diocese should aggressively defend an innocent man and fight the charge. But how could it rally to Soens's defense now without coming across as "re-abusing the victim" and thereby digging itself an even deeper grave? The time for earning trust is gone; there's no "capital" of trustworthiness left to spend. The only way forward -- that bishops would police themselves more severely and efficiently than outside agencies -- seems one they are incapable of contemplating.
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