Iowa Catholics respond to Pope's talk with sex abuse victims - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Catholics respond to Pope's talk with sex abuse victims

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Pope Francis met Monday with six people who had suffered sexual abuse by clergy members. The pope asked them for their forgiveness.

News of decades-long and widespread sexual abuse of children by some priests broke out in the early 2000's, to the dismay of Catholics and outrage of the world.

A number of those abuses took place in eastern Iowa.

Carol Gebhart is director of the Archdiocese of Dubuque's Office of the Protection of Children, which was formed in 2003. Since its inception, she said, the office has received 193 claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

All of those allegations claimed abuses that happened before the mid-90's, with most taking place in the 50's and 60's.

The Archdiocese of Dubuque covers 30 eastern Iowa counties, including Black Hawk, Dubuque and Linn Counties. There are some 200,000 Catholics living within that area.

Shirley Gansen has been a parishioner at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Dubuque for more than 40 years. She recalls her reaction in the early 2000's to the news of decades of sexual abuse of minors by some priests.

"I was really shocked and very disappointed that it did happen," Gansen said. "I come from a very small area, and it probably happened, but it's like, 'How could this happen and nothing was done?'"

Standing outside St. Joseph the Worker before attending Monday's noon mass, she said she hopes Pope Francis reaching out to sex abuse victims worldwide will reunite the church with some of the people who left in the wake of the scandal.

"I do think that, hopefully, we will have some people come back," Gansen said, adding some who stayed despite the scandal still had their faith shaken. "I think that this will really help promote their faith and just show the world that we really do care."

Fr. Gabriel Anderson is a priest with the Archdiocese of Dubuque, who works at both St. Joseph the Worker and St. Columbkille Catholic churches.

He said the entire church has grown more aware of child abuse and vigilant.

"It has happened, and we won't tolerate it happening again," he said Monday before mass.

He said Pope Francis is asking victims for forgiveness not only for abuses by the priests but also for the Catholic Church's lack of response.

"The sins of omission are a particular point because when people don't do good, when they don't step in to protect the innocent and to defend what is right, then evil propagates itself even further," Anderson said.

Healing, he said, is needed by everybody involved - the victims as well as the abusers and the entire church.

When the priest sex abuse scandal broke out in the early 2000's, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a charter for the protection of children, which is what established the Archdiocese of Dubuque's Office of the Protection of Children.

On its website, the Archdiocese of Dubuque has a list of priests accused of sexual abuse and when the alleged abuses took place. That list is HERE: http://www.dbqarch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/TableofAccusedPriests.pdf

The Archdiocese of Dubuque's Office of the Protection of Children is online HERE: http://www.dbqarch.org/offices/protection-of-children/

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