Assignment Record – Bishop Lawrence Donald Soens

Summary of Case: Soens was ordained a priest for the Davenport diocese in 1950. He worked in parishes and schools, including serving as principal of Regina High School in Iowa City and as a seminary teacher and rector. Soens held several chancery positions and was made a monsignor in 1981. He was appointed Bishop of Sioux City in June 1983 and was ordained and installed in August of that year. He retired in 1998.

In 2002 a man accused Soens of having sexually abused him when he was a Regina High student in the 1960s. The diocese kept this accusation and others against Soens quiet until 2005. At least 31 men have come forward since with accusations that Soens sexually abused them when they were boys. Most of the abuse is said to have occurred against Regina High students, beginning in 1958. Soens' modus operandi is said to have been to persistently "purple", or twist, pinch, fondle, and massage the nipples of male students, in private and in school hallways. He is also accused of fondling boys' crotch areas over and beneath their clothes, and to have attempted oral sex on at least one boy. Soens denied sexually abusing the boys, but admitted to the "purpling" behavior. A diocesan review board in 2008 determined the accusations to be credible. In 2012 Soens retains the title Bishop Emeritus of Sioux City.

Ordained
: May 6, 1950
Ordained and Installed: Bishop of Sioux City Aug. 17, 1983
Retired: Nov. 28, 1998


   

Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes

1950

Davenport bishop was Ralph Leo Hayes (1944-1966)

1952 St. Paul Burlington IA assistant pastor  
1952 1954 St. Ambrose Academy Davenport IA teacher; vice-rector  
1954 1958 St. Bridget Victor IA assistant pastor  

1958

Hayes was succeeded by Gerald Francis O'Keefe (1966-1993)

1967 Regina High School

Iowa City

Court papers revealed in 2006 that the diocese started an investigation of Soens in 2002, after a former Regina student called the school repeatedly to claim that when he was a student in the mid-1960s, Soens would pinch his nipples and touch his testicles through his clothes. A member of Regina's school board then disclosed that when he was a Regina student Soens would call him to his office and pinch his testicles.

In January 2005 the diocese revealed that in 2002 Soens was accused of sexually abusing minors in the 1960s when he was a Davenport priest, and that one of Soens' accusers received a $20,000 settlement.

Soens was accused in a June 2005 lawsuit of having molested a male Regina High student, beginning in 1963. The abuse was said to have taken place in the principal's office, and that Soens fondled him while reprimanding him for misbehavior the boy had not engaged in. Soens denied the allegation.

Soens was accused in an Aug. 2005 lawsuit of sexually abusing another male Regina High student, in the student's final year at the school. The accuser said Soens used his principal's office to abuse male students. This accuser also claimed Soens unzipped the boy's pants and fondled him while chastising him for misconduct that had not occurred.

In March 2006 there were seven new claims of sexual abuse by Soens of Regina students in the 1960s. By 2006 Soens had been accused in 16 cases. By June 2011 Soens had been accused of sexually abusing 31 male minors, mostly stemming from his time at Regina High.

In court papers related to one of the lawsuits against Regina High, Soens, and the Davenport diocese former Regina students in 18 sworn statements said Soens would frequently "purple" or twist boys' nipples, often in school hallways among groups of boys. Several of the former students said they thought Soens derived sexual pleasure from the "purpling". They said that Soens' behavior was common knowledge at the school. Soens stated in a deposition, when asked if he "purpled" boys' nipples, "I think I probably did."

One former student said in a sworn statement that in the summer prior to his freshman year, Soens saw him mowing a lawn near the school and invited him in for lemonade; he said Soens then pulled down his shorts and tried to perform oral sex on him .

IA principal

Soens' abusive behavior in the 1960s as alleged in 2002 by a former Regina student was determined in 2006 by a team of church officials to have been possibly inappropriate, but not sexual. The investigative team had been appointed by Davenport Bishop Franklin.

In Nov. 2008 the Davenport Diocesan Review Board determined that Soens was guilty of child sexual abuse at Regina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Former students said in the 2000s that they told Regina High School teacher Fr. Richard Bevenour about Soens' abusive behavior; Bevenour would respond by telling the boys to pray for Soens. They also said Bevenour would by them alcohol, which Bevenour has denied.

1967 1975 St. Ambrose Minor Seminary

Davenport

One of the men who claimed Soens sexually abused him as a high school student at Regina, accused Soens of also abusing him when he was a St. Ambrose seminary student and a minor. The man said Soens kicked him out of seminary school after he reported the abuse to authorities.

IA rector The Davenport Diocesan Review Board determined in Nov. 2008 that Soens was guilty of sexually abusing the St. Ambrose student.
    St. Ambrose College Davenport IA faculty member  
1970 1977 Diocesan Personnel Board Davenport IA    
1973 1983 Diocesan Consultor Davenport IA    
1974 1978 Vice Officialis Davenport IA    
1975 1977 Assumption Charlotte IA pastor  
1975 1977 St. Patrick's Villa Nova IA pastor  
1977 1983 St. Mary's Clinton IA pastor Soens was made Monsignor in Dec. 1981.
1980 1983 Dean of Clinton Davenport IA   Appointed Bishop of Sioux City June 21, 1983, and ordained and installed Aug. 17, 1983.

1983

Bishop of Sioux City was Lawrence Donald Soens 1983-1998)

1998 Bishop

Sioux City IA   Retired Nov. 28, 1998.

1998

Daniel Nicholas NiNardo replaced Soens as bishop (1998-2004), followed by Ralph Walker Nickless (2005-)

2012 Bishop Emeritus Sioux City IA   In 2008 Soens was known to be living in Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City.

 

Source: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons)

Bishop Accused of Sex Abuse, Retired Now, He Was a Priest in Davenport Diocese in '60s, By Shirley Ragsdale , Des Moines Register [Davenport IA], January 19, 2005
Seven Priests Celebrate Jubilees, CatholicGlobe.org Archives, April 14, 2005
Former Sioux City Bishop Named in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit, Associated Press, carried in Des Moines Register [Iowa City IA], June 8, 2005
Retired Bishop Faces Allegation, By Barb Ickes , Quad-City Times [Iowa] , August 17, 2005
Victims Urge Iowa Bishops to Sanction Alleged Abuser, Retired Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens Says Claims against Him Are Untrue, By Shirley Ragsdale, Des Moines Register, January 4, 2006
Probe of Retired Bishop Began in '02, Papers Show, A Former Student and a Board Member at an Iowa City School Say They Were Victims of Abuse, By Shirley Ragsdale, Des Moines Register, February 8, 2006
Bishop Cleared in 2002 Allegations, Associated Press, carried in Gazette, February 8, 2006
Advocates Say Diocese Lied about Soens, By Dustin Lemmon, Quad-City Times [Davenport IA], February 9, 2006
Bishop Responds to Accusations of Deceit, By William E. Franklin, Quad-City Times [Iowa], February 24, 2006
Victims Seek Documents from Diocese in Bishop's Sex Abuse Case, KCCI, March 9, 2006
Clergy Abuse Expert: Alleged Soens Abuse Is Sadism, Two Men Have Filed Lawsuits Accusing the Former School Principal, By Shirley Ragsdale, Des Moines Register, May 3, 2006
Davenport Diocese Hit with 14 New Abuse Claims, Courier, May 23, 2006
Former Regina Principal Sued Again, By Mike McWilliams, Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 10, 2006
Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts from Gould v. Soens, Sept. 5, 2006
Lawsuit Claims School Knew of Ex-Bishop's Alleged Abuse, Regina Officials in Iowa City Deny the Accusation in the Lawrence Soens Case, By Shirley Ragsdale, Des Moines Register [Iowa], September 8, 2006
In the Fear of the Father, By Mason Kerns and Margaret Poe, Daily Iowan, May 8, 2007
Attorney: Accused Priest 'Shocked' by Diocese Settlement, By Gregg Hennigan, The Gazette, February 1, 2008
Special: Agitated Phone Calls in 2002 Launched Soens Investigation, By Ann McGlynn, Quad-City Times, February 16, 2008
Special: Former Iowa Man Talks about Time with Bishop Soens, Aftermath and Lawsuit, By Ann McGlynn, Quad-City Times, February 16, 2008
Diocese Releases Names of 'Credibly Accused' Abusers, By Ann McGlynn, Quad-City Times, July 10, 2008, Review Finds Retired Catholic Bishop Guilty of Sex Abuse, By Erin Jordan, Des Moines Register, November 3, 2008
Former Sioux City Bishop Accused, KCAU, November 6, 2008
Lawsuits against Former Iowa City Regina Principal Dropped, By Gregg Hennigan, The Gazette, May 29, 2009
Davenport’s Bishop Hides 2 Child Molesting Clerics; SNAP Responds, SNAP, June 28, 2011
Accused U.S. Bishops, BishopAccountability.org

 


Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Soens' career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on Dec. 9, 2012


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