Sioux City, Iowa — Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City admitted it was "with a heavy and sad heart" he was reporting that some priests and bishops have abused the grace and beauty of the priesthood, "sexually abusing innocent children among us."
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- The first credible allegation occurred in 1948 and the last credible allegation involved an incident in 1995.
- A total of 515 priests have served the diocese since 1902.
- Twenty-two of the 28 listed are deceased; 15 of the priests had a single allegation of abuse.
- No one on the list is currently involved in ministry.
Prior to the news conference, Nickless met with clergy of the diocese Feb. 21 to explain the release of names of priests credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors.
"I'll be honest, I was very nervous and stressed going into the meeting on Thursday," said Fr. Craig Collison, pastor of Resurrection of Our Lord Church, Pocahontas and Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Fonda.
The priest also serves as chairman of the priests' council of the diocese, which had met the week before.
Collison explained priests at the council meeting had a lot of good discussion and, despite some frustration and "low confidence" felt at the start of the day, those in attendance reported that they felt much "more positive" in dealing with questions from parishioners and, potentially, from members of the press.
Although weather affected Mass attendance the weekend of Feb. 23-24 with many churches canceling services, a letter from Nickless outlining the release of the list of names was handed out to those in attendance.
"Receiving the personal letter from Bishop Nickless was not able to be as effective as with normal Mass attendance," Collison acknowledged. "We will find other ways to effectively get the information out to our parishioners."
While the news conference was taking place, members of the chancery staff gathered for a time of prayer and adoration in the Central Catholic Offices chapel.
"Given what is ahead, time in prayer and adoration is essential," stated Fred Shellabarger, director of evangelization and discipleship. "Every hour on the hour, we prayed the novena for clergy, the prayer for victims and finally, the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We concluded with the Litany of the Sacred Heart at 4:20 p.m."
Nickless will celebrate an evening Mass of renewal Feb. 28 at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City. Concelebrants will be Sioux City priests. Other churches in the diocese have been asked to celebrate their own renewal Masses, to pray for the victims of clergy abuse, to pray for forgiveness and to rebuild trust.
Nickless, who has served the diocese since 2006, renewed his plea for anyone who has been harmed by an agent of the church to come forward, emphasizing "transparency, accountability and helping survivors heal."
"We encourage all victims of abuse or misconduct to contact civil authorities and then our victims assistance coordinator, use the resources available through our diocese and help bring offenders to justice."
The diocese encouraged abuse victims to contact Angie Mack, victims assistance coordinator, toll free at (866) 435-4397 or in Sioux City at (712) 279-5610.
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Fox is managing editor of The Catholic Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City.