Father Donald Slaven, who left St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Churdan in 1992 on a leave of absence, likely assaulted minors in his care, the Sioux City Diocese said Monday. HERALD FILE

Diocese names accused priests

Four local priests on list of abusers

Staff report

When confronted last year by The Jefferson Herald about the habitual sexual assault of an altar boy at St. Joseph Catholic Church in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Father George McFadden forcefully asserted his innocence.

“I swear on my mother’s grave I never touched him,” McFadden, 94, told the Herald in September.

That was a lie, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City acknowledged Monday with the historic release of a list naming 28 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors throughout its 24-county territory between 1948 and 1995.

Three other priests on the list of credibly accused — Donald Slaven, Jerome Coyle and Bruce Lefebvre — also spent time at parishes in Greene County.

“Publishing this list is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our diocese,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless vowed Monday at a news conference in Sioux City. “We want it to usher in a climate of openness and transparency, resulting in the protection of our youth and accountability for clergy and church leaders.”

Nickless was joined at the news conference by Father Brad Pelzel and Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser, a member of the diocesan review board.

The seven-member review board investigated allegations and determined if they were credible.

Twenty-two of the 28 credibly accused priests are deceased.

According to the diocese, its law firm also reviewed the files of all 515 priests to ever serve in the diocese since its inception in 1902.

Diocese leaders acknowledged the list could grow as other accusations are made.

The most accused priest in the diocese — with 39 male and female victims between 1960 and 1985 — George Bernard McFadden served at St. Joseph in Jefferson from 1969 to 1972.

During that time, he oversaw construction of the St. Joseph Parish Center and its dedication.

Daniel Nash, a 1977 graduate of Jefferson High School, spoke to the Herald last summer detailing McFadden’s repeated abuse of him between fifth and seventh grades, which escalated from over-the-clothes fondling to flesh-to-flesh contact, including rape.

“It’s a train crash you will never be able to climb out of,” Nash said.

Nash grapples with what’s known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a form of PTSD that stems from prolonged, repeated trauma — a level of trauma found among victims of child sex rings and survivors of concentration camps.

McFadden, who was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., insisted he’s the victim of a “witch hunt” and accused Nash of having “something against the church.” 

A lawsuit filed by Nash was dismissed in 2005 on grounds that any crime McFadden may have committed was beyond the statute of limitations.

Nash settled with the diocese in 2007 for $150,000.

However, after publication of the Herald’s story on Sept. 13, additional local victims of McFadden came forward.

The families of Mike Kundrat and Gordon Tiffany wrote to the newspaper about their own struggles inflicted by McFadden.

McFadden was removed from ministry in 1991, but received permission in 1995 to celebrate noon Mass at the Cathedral in Sioux City.

The three other local priests on the newly released list:

Jerome Paul Coyle

• 13 male victims, 1965 to 1985

• Served at St. Brigid in Grand Junction, 1977-78

• Removed from ministry, 1988; resides at a care facility in Missouri, according to the diocese

Bruce Anthony Lefebvre

• Two male victims, 1980s

• Served at St. Brigid in Grand Junction and St. John in Paton, 1984

• Took leave of absence, 2002; died 2005

Donald Joseph Slaven

• Two male victims, 1990s

• Served at St. Columbkille in Churdan, 1988 to 1992, as well as St. Brigid in Grand Junction, St. John in Paton and St. Patrick in Cedar Twp.

• Took leave of absence, 1992-93, returning as a chaplain in Sioux City nursing homes

• Retired, 2009, after serving in Dow City, Charter Oak and Ute; died 2014

“On behalf of the church, I am profoundly sorry and apologize to each victim,” Nickless said Monday. “I am grateful for the courage each victim has demonstrated by coming forward and I am committed to helping each of them heal.”

The list originally contained 29 names, but the diocese received notification that one priest appealed to Rome. His information will be withheld until church leaders come to a resolution.

The priests on the list were never charged or convicted in civil or criminal cases. 

Nickless said the diocese is working with church and civil authorities to determine appropriate civil, religious and legal responses for all priests listed.

The complete list is available on the diocese website, scdiocese.org.

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