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Sioux City Native Who Survived Clergy Sex Abuse Calls For Reform

A priest's collar.

A Sioux City native who survived sexual abuse in the Catholic church hopes bringing his experience to the public will encourage more people to come forward.
Tim Lennon, the president of the board of directors for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says he was raped at 12-years-old by a clergy member in 1960 in Sioux City. He says when he reported it to the diocese more than 30 years later, he received a vague letter that did not offer an apology or any help.

He read the response he received over the phone in an interview with Iowa Public Radio: “…society for years chose to ignore the reality of this social ill…”

Lennon, who now lives in Arizona, spoke to a small crowd in Sioux City over the weekend, calling for the Diocese of Sioux City to release the names of clergy members who have been accused of abuse.

“So many suffer alone and never come forward,” Lennon said in a Monday interview. “So when there’s public notice of a predator or of sexual abuse, it provides an opportunity for victims to step forward or to tell their family, friends or a counselor.”

The Sioux City Diocese was unavailable to comment on SNAP’s call for it to release the names. Lennon says he wants a statewide investigation into the Catholic church.

SNAP, over the weekend, also called for Cardinal Daniel DiNardo to step down as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. DiNardo reportedly covered up clergy sex abuse in both Sioux City and Houston, Texas.

In late 2018, an Associated Press investigation found former priest, Rev. Jerome Coyle, sexually abused dozens of boys in Iowa, which the diocese covered up for decades. The AP investigation pointed out the statute of limitation, the amount of time to bring legal action, has expired. In Iowa, a victim has 10 years to sue for sexual abuse.

Lennon called the statute “a get-out-of-jail card” for abusers and said laws about sexual abuse need to be reformed.

“So many victims bury memories for decades and laws such as statutes of limitations limits their ability to seek justice or have consequence for predators,” he said.

No victims have reached out to SNAP since the weekend press conference, Lennon said.

“Coming forward is very difficult for most survivors,” he said. “I tell victims I honor their courage coming forward.”

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.