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Cardinal DiNardo

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo speaks at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City on in 2013. A network of Catholic church sexual abuse survivors has called for DiNardo to step down from his position as Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston after allegations that he bungled several allegations of sexual misconduct levied against priests. 

SIOUX CITY  -- A group of Catholic church sexual abuse survivors has called on Cardinal Daniel DiNardo to resign as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, citing his alleged role in a three-decades-old cover up of a former Sioux City diocese priest who sexually abused more than 50.

The diocese on Tuesday publicly apologized for mishandling the case of the Rev. Jerome Coyle, who was stripped of his parish duties in 1986 after acknowledging to church authorities his sexual attraction to and contact with boys while serving several Northwest Iowa parishes over a 20-year period.

The case was brought to light on Oct. 31 by an Associated Press investigation that revealed the diocese, without explanation, announced that Coyle was taking a six-month medical leave of absence. Church officials transferred him to a treatment center in New Mexico where other accused priests nationwide were once commonly sent. The diocese pointed out that was the protocol at the time.

Coyle continued to live in New Mexico for decades, before the diocese recently moved him into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street. The diocese has since transferred him to an undisclosed location.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for some 25,000 victims, claimed Wednesday that DiNardo, as bishop of the Sioux City diocese from 1997 to 2004, would have been aware of Coyle's confession and would have one of the diocese officials supervising his living arrangements in New Mexico.

In 2002, while he was in Sioux City, SNAP noted DiNardo also apologized for permitting The Rev. George McFadden, the subject of 27 lawsuits, to remain a priest after he was accused of molesting children. McFadden, the subject of 27 lawsuits, was forced to retire in 1992 after serving nearly 50 years at six parishes. 

DiNardo acknowledged the abuse claims were never reported to law enforcement “because it was so long after the events took place.” DiNardo initiated the process to have McFadden deflocked the year before his departure for Texas in 2004. 

SNAP also claims DiNardo, who today is the cardinal archbishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese, bungled a more recent sex abuse case in Texas involving Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, a Houston-area priest facing charges of indecency with a child. 

Taken together, the allegations are "in our opinion, proof positive that Cardinal DiNardo is unfit for his role as the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops," the statement read. 

DiNardo's predecessor in Sioux City was Lawrence D. Soens, who became bishop in 1983. Soens, now 92, is retired and living in a Sioux City retirement home. Soens himself was investigated more than a decade ago for alleged sexual abuse of an Iowa City high school student in the 1950s or 1960s. 

The Coyle case became public as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared to gather for their annual meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12-14. A response to the sex abuse scandal rocking the church will be on the agenda.

As president of the Conference, DiNardo has repeatedly urged the church to be completely transparency about the crisis.

Neither the Diocese of Sioux City nor the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston immediately responded to The Journal's request for comment on Thursday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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