IOWA CITY, Iowa — Roman Catholic priests sexually abused minors across Iowa for decades while church leaders covered it up, but reforms implemented in the last two decades have largely ended the problem, a three-year review by Iowa’s attorney general concluded.
A report issued by Attorney General Tom Miller said the number of complaints, victims and the duration of the abuse was “overwhelming” and the “cover-up was extensive,” similar to what has been found elsewhere in the U.S.
“The image and reputation of the church were put ahead of the enormous harm to young people,” the 30-page report found.
The review found that only five Iowa priests have been the subject of allegations since 2002, and that bishops who participated in concealing past problems are no longer in charge in Iowa.
Miller said key reforms implemented since 2002 are working. He praised the automatic reporting of all abuse allegations by church officials to local authorities, the decision by the state’s four Catholic dioceses to post online lists of credibly accused priests, and the improved treatment of victims.
Of the five priests accused of misconduct since 2002, only one has been added to the credibly accused list: a Davenport priest who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. The others involved allegations of improper touching, possession of pornography and invasion of privacy, but they either weren’t substantiated or didn’t meet the definition of sexual abuse.