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Iowa bishop listed as object of 'credible' abuse charges: a first in US scandal

November 04, 2008

Bishop Lawrence Soens, the retired head of the Sioux City, Iowa diocese, has become the first American bishop to be named as the object of 'credible' sex-abuse charges under the guidelines of the US bishops' policy guidelines. A review board in the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa announced on November 3 that evidence existed to support charges against Soens and three other priests. More than 30 men have come forward to say that they were molested by Soens while he was a priest in Davenport from 1950 to 1983. He became Bishop of Sioux City in 1983, retiring in 1998 at the age of 72. The Davenport diocese has been forced into bankruptcy because of damages awarded to sex-abuse victims.

Although many other American bishops have been charged with sexual misconduct, and several have reached court settlements with victims, none had previously been named under the terms of the 'Dallas Charter' established by the US hierarchy in 2002 to deal with sex-abuse allegations. The Dallas Charter does not apply to bishops; Bishop Soens was named in his capacity as a diocesan priest in Davenport, prior to his episcopal ordination. The case of the retired bishop will now be forwarded to the Vatican for any possible further action.


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