“You know the shock that was, what we took on? It traumatized us to see these pages of who this guy was. It shocked us to such a degree that I didn't want to let my wife know how scared I was.”
He related that he slept downstairs near Coyle, while the rest of his family was upstairs, from the time they received the Feb. 12 letter until Coyle left in June.
Ortiz told CNA fears that Coyle could have abused his son, who is 15.
Although Ortiz chose not to help Coyle find a nursing home, he did accept money from his boarder. Ortiz told CNA he asked the priest for financial contributions to the family home.
According to Nickless, Coyle gave Ortiz almost $30,000 during the eight months he lived in the family home.
Nickless said that Ortiz first told Coyle he needed to buy a larger car to take him to Mass; his family and Coyle could not all fit into their existing vehicle.
Coyle gave Ortiz $25,000 to buy a new car, Nickless told CNA.
A few weeks later, Ortiz said he needed some more money to handle some expenses.
Coyle gave Ortiz another $2,000, Nickless said.
Later, Ortiz said he needed an additional $3,000, “at which point Jerry balked,” Pelzel told CNA.
“Then Reuben demanded that Jerry give him power of attorney and access to his saving and checking account,” according to Pelzel.
“So then Jerry called us and said, 'This is strange, I think I'm coming back',” Nickless said.
Asked how much money the priest had given him, Ortiz declined to answer.
“Let me ask you something, okay? What do you, how do you think money has anything to do with this? How does money come into play? I curse the day I ever met him and if I could take back every time that we met, and everything that was spent, both ways, I would do it, gladly, just to avoid that one meeting with him,” Ortiz told CNA.
After Coyle decided to leave, the diocese began making arrangements for Coyle to return to Iowa. Within five days, on June 29, Coyle left the Ortiz' home.
Month after Coyle left his home, lawyers representing Ortiz told diocesan officials and reporters that the Diocese of Sioux City was guilty of a cover-up.
“You know what it's like when you go to your Church officials and they do absolutely nothing for you?” He asked. “They are totally bankrupt when it comes to morals.”
While Nickless told CNA that he tried to explain to Ortiz the allegations against Coyle from the beginning, Ortiz disagreed.
“They're accepting sin, in such a way that it's ok, and so they are shameless in this sin to such a point that they think we are going to agree with a letter of that magnitude. See, they told me that; they had gone and said that he had abused; I said he told us he abused a couple kids, we don't know the extent. But they said, well you know, they didn't really make it quite clear until the letter … do you know how scary it is to have somebody like this in your home?”
Although he acknowledged inviting Coyle into his home, Ortiz maintains he was used.
“I was used, as far as I'm concerned. I was used for the purpose of people who released this into our society as a plague, and it upsets me, it does. I don't think I'm ever going to recover from it.”
Ortiz also said that his spiritual director, whom he described as “no slouch in the priesthood” also failed him, because he did not sufficiently warn him not to allow an admitted perpetrator of sexual assault into his home.
When Coyle returned to Iowa, he was placed at Marian Home, a diocesan retirement home in Fort Dodge.
While the board of directors at Marian Home wasn't notified of Coyle's past, several staff members at the residence were.
Pelzel says he told the activities director “explicitly what Jerry was accused of, and she promised to be vigilant.”
Marian Home is located across the street from both St. Edmond Catholic School and Fort Dodge Senior High. Students at St. Edmond's sometimes visit Marian Home, but they did not have contact with Coyle as they do not go to the area in which he lived.
The schools were not informed when Coyle moved to the residence; “it did not occur to us that the school was there at that time,” Nickless said, acknowledging that “We made a mistake in not notifying the school … we should have done a better job of that.”
Coyle has since left Marian Home, and has been taken in by an acquaintance. Nickless said the priest is living “a life of prayer and penance.”
Nickless wrote a letter to the Sioux City diocese Oct. 31 discussing Coyle's situation, noting that “No one presently at the diocese has firsthand knowledge about Jerry Coyle and that includes me. For the past few months, we have been attempting to put the pieces together about what happened during the 1980s with the files and records that we do have on Jerry Coyle.”
“During the ensuing 32 years, there were no complaints of any misbehavior by Jerry Coyle. Psychologists in Albuquerque advised the diocese that Coyle was highly motivated to change. We know that many disagree with this point, and so do I.”
The bishop wrote that police “were not contacted when Coyle self-admitted, but policies have changed since 1986. Now the policy is to contact civil authorities, which we will follow, since we have [now] named victims of Jerry Coyle.”
In a Nov. 6 statement, the diocese elaborated.
“The issue that is most important for the public to understand is that many of the allegations made in the past, prior to the 2002 ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ were not followed up with an investigation by civil authorities. The Church often sent priests to treatment, in hopes that any actions of misconduct could be cured. We know now that is not the way to handle any allegation of sexual misconduct, and with the 2002 Charter to guide us, we have protocols in place to follow, which we do,” the statement said.
“As far as Jerry Coyle, he has had no criminal charges made against him. He self-admitted, and there was not one allegation until 1986, and this individual was an adult, so the statute of limitations had run out. We recognize that when Coyle self-admitted, each parish should have been notified, and we should have asked victims to come forward. We apologize that this did not happen under the leadership of the Diocese of Sioux City at that time.”
Nickless wrote to the diocese last month: “If you are a victim of Jerry Coyle or any priest or person associated with the Diocese of Sioux City, please come forward.” In recent weeks, several alleged victims of Coyle have come forward to the diocese.
But in 2002, when the diocese initially reviewed its records with local prosecutors, there were no identifiable victims of Coyle. Pelzel said that at that time, a student at a local university had made allegations against Coyle to another priest; but the allegation was anonymous and the diocese had no way to contact the alleged victim.
Another individual had said Coyle had acted “kind of weird” in the sacristy, but didn't remember “anything else much.”
While Coyle was removed from ministry in 1986, he was not dismissed from the clerical state, and remains a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City. As such, the diocese is obliged under canon law to provide housing and board for him. The diocesan conduct review board is now discussing the possibility of pursuing a dismissal from the clerical state for Coyle.
However, “once a priest is elderly and frail and sick, as Fr. Coyle is, most of the time it's recommended [by the Vatican] that he live a life of prayer and penance,” Nickless explained.
In fact, the Sioux City diocese attempted to have another elderly priest dismissed from the clerical state, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused, citing his advanced age.
The review board has also been discussing the preparation and release of a list of credibly accused clerics of the diocese, especially how to make sure that such a list would be accurate. The diocese has stated that a list of credibly accused priests will be published “as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”
The Nov. 6 statement said that Coyle’s case raises important questions about how the Church addresses sexual abuse.
“Bishop Nickless inherited many issues from the past. These are the ones we are dealing with today. One of the most difficult issues is this: where do we put known alleged abuser priests that are still alive, but have no charges against them? What do we do with these men? We know that you do not want them in your community. Many care facilities will not, or cannot, take them. Their families sometimes will take them in, but not always. They cannot go to a prison, as civil authorities say that the statute of limitations has run out to prosecute them. This leaves us with very few choices. We understand that the many members of the public are anxious and fearful about sex offenders, because the crime is so egregious. However, if they are not charged and sent to prison, there are few options for housing them.”
“Local Bishops do not have the authority to ‘defrock’ a priest, properly known as laicization. Laicization is a complicated process that is handled by the Vatican; however, a Bishop can remove a priest’s ability to function as a priest, and this has been done. Additionally, once laicized, Diocesan officials lose all ability to supervise formerly accused clergy,” the statement added.
“The Diocese of Sioux City does follow the Charter’s guidelines for all claims of abuse in the present day. As we follow up on past cases, we want to do that in a way that helps victims to feel that have some peace and justice. We set up a meeting on December 6, 2018 with the Attorney General of Iowa to discuss matters further. A list of credibly accused priests will be published, as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”