Davenport Bishop says diocese taking strong steps to prevent abuse

Bishop Thomas Zinkula Photo courtesy The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The head of the Diocese of Davenport reiterated his strong stance to protect children and implement training for adults and children to recognize potential predators in a statement released in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing widespread and systemic sexual abuse of children.

“This diocese has faced our own failures in protecting children in the past,” said Bishop Thomas Zinkula, referring to a settlement with sex abuse victims that resulted in the diocese filing for bankruptcy in 2007. “With a great debt to survivors of abuse who came forward, we now operate much differently, and we have already implemented all of the recommendations of the grand jury.”

The Davenport diocese abandoned the use of confidentiality agreements – which were often used to shield accused priests and allowed them to be moved to other parishes – decades ago, Zinkula noted. In addition, the diocese continues to “advocate for a change to the Iowa criminal statute of limitations.  During the bankruptcy process, a window was created for all victims to come forward to report abuse.”

Zinkula noted that under “safe environment programs” the diocese has trained more than 17,800 adults and children and instituted background checks for all clergy, employees or volunteers who work with children or vulnerable adults.

“The abuse of children and vulnerable adults isn’t an issue that will simply go away,” he said. “We must all be constantly vigilant in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Here is Bishop Zinkula’s statement in its entirety:

The crimes against children that were reported by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury are horrendous and inexcusable.  We continue to pray for all those who are affected by abuse whenever and wherever it occurred. 

This diocese has faced our own failures in protecting children in the past.  With a great debt to survivors of abuse who came forward, we now operate much differently, and we have already implemented all of the recommendations of the grand jury.

Any abuse or even inappropriate behavior by church personnel, including clergy, will not be tolerated.  Period.  As I said at a meeting of clergy and laity when I became bishop of Davenport, “Not on my watch.”  Reports of abuse are reported to law enforcement.  We abandoned the use of confidentiality agreements a decade ago.  We continue to advocate for a change to the Iowa criminal statute of limitations.  During the bankruptcy process, a window was created for all victims to come forward to report abuse. 

Policies and safe environment programs are in place and are reviewed annually for improvement.  These programs have trained over 17,800 adults and children to recognize potential predators and to provide safe environments.  In addition, all employees and volunteers who work with children or vulnerable adults must pass a comprehensive background check. 

The abuse of children and vulnerable adults isn’t an issue that will simply go away.  We must all be constantly vigilant in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves.