A Catholic diocese in Sioux City, Iowa recently acknowledged that for decades, it concealed a priest’s admission that he sexually abused as many as 50 or more boys and was an admitted pedophile.
The priest, Father Jerome Coyle, now 85 years old and living in New Mexico, reported his history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys to the Sioux City bishop back in 1986, but the church allegedly never contacted the police or informed the public.
This story breaks in the wake of the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report, which identified over 1,000 abused children and 300 predator priests in six of the state’s eight dioceses, as well as a long history of activities aimed at covering up the abuse.
Abusive Iowa Priest Never Reported to the Police
As reported in the Domain Register and in other news outlets, the Iowa diocese was allegedly aware of Father Coyle’s abuse for over 32 years, but it was not until the Associated Press (AP) inquired about it that the priest was publicly identified as a pedophile.
The AP obtained a private letter written by the diocese vicar general in February 2018 to Father Coyle’s caregivers. In the letter, the vicar discussed Coyle’s long-term living situation, and stated that the review board for the Dioceses of Sioux City recommended that he pursue assisted living in New Mexico where he has been living for over 30 years, rather than transfer back to Iowa. Among the reasons for the decision not to move him back to Iowa was the priest’s “history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys.”
The vicar went on to explain that Father Coyle revealed his situation to his bishop and asked for help, admitting that “for a period of 20 years, he victimized approximately 50 school boys, varying from 7th to 10th grade.” All those boys would now be men ranging in age from 45 to 70. Should Father Coyle return to the state, the vicar explained, there was concern that one of those victims “could potentially encounter him and be retraumatized by the memories that would surface.”
The vicar also noted that the diocese was prepared to raise Father Coyle’s monthly allowance to help him afford the cost of living in a long-term care facility.
Church Has a History of Sending Abusive Priests to Approved “Treatment” Centers
The AP states that when it contacted the diocese about Father Coyle’s abusive activities, they were told that he was stripped of his parish assignments after he admitted his abuse, but that he was never defrocked. Neither was his abuse reported to anyone outside of the church.
Instead, leaders in the church said only that Coyle was taking a medical leave from his duties, and then they transferred him to a treatment center in New Mexico where they allegedly commonly sent accused priests. There, he continued to collect financial assistance from the diocese. Spokeswoman Susan O’Brian told reporters that the dioceses acknowledged the situation could have been handled better.
The diocese’s actions resemble those of the Pennsylvania dioceses, who also had a history of sending accused priests to treatment centers. The grand jury noted in their report that part of the church’s cover-up activities involved sending priests for “evaluation” at church-run psychiatric treatment centers.
Authorities interviewed Coyle in New Mexico recently and searched his apartment after discovering that he was living in a care facility near a Catholic school.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.