Diocese of Des Moines releases names of priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse

A list of nine priests who have substantiated allegations of sexually abusing children while serving the Diocese of Des Moines was released by the diocese on Thursday — six of whom served in southwest Iowa.

The Rev. Bishop Pates said in a broadcast conference that all but two of the names on the list have previously been shared with the public. The incidents of abuse occurred from the 1950s to the 1990s, he said.

“Sexual abuse of children by clergy is a dark part of our history, and we must acknowledge and apologize for it. To those victims in the diocese and beyond, I am deeply sorry for the pain you have endured,” said Pates. “It is my hope that the release of this list will affirm our commitment to providing accurate and transparent information, foster healing and encourage those victims who have not come forward to do so.”

The list names the following:

  • Paul Connelly, one substantiated allegation, died in 2007.
  • Howard Fitzgerald, two substantiated allegations, currently resides outside the diocese in southwest Iowa.
  • Phillip Hobt, one substantiated allegation, died in 2017.
  • Leonard Kenkel, one substantiated allegation, currently resides in a senior care facility in the diocese.
  • Dennis Mangan, two substantiated allegations, died in 1976.
  • John Ryan, six substantiated allegations, died in 2010.
  • Richard Wagner, one substantiated allegation, died in 2012.
  • Albert Wilwerding, 25 substantiated allegations of which half were confirmed by the review board, died in 2004.
  • Francis Zuch, five substantiated allegations, died in 1993.

A substantiated claim of abusing a minor is when sufficient evidence exists to establish “reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged abuse occurred,” the dioceses said in a statement Thursday. It is not the same as a criminal conviction.

The following were found to have served in some function in southwest Iowa:

Wagner served at Holy Family Parish in Council Bluffs in 1961, served as president of Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines in 1965, St. Michael’s Parish in Harlan in 1976, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Council Bluffs in 1982, St. Mary’s Parish in Red Oak in 1987.

Wagner was the subject of one allegation he abused a female in the late 1980s, which was reported in 1993 and substantiated in 2003. He was laicized in 2006.

The dioceses said the investigation of Kenkel began last fall for “decades-old sexual abuse of a minor” which was found to be substantiated.

Pates referred the case to law enforcement on Sept. 6, and was notified the allegation was beyond the statute of limitations. Pates apologized to the victim.

Kenkel, who is retired, lives in a nursing facility. He is unable to minister and has been suspended of his priestly faculties.

Kenkel was ordained a priest in 1960. He served the following Des Moines parishes: Christ the King, Holy Trinity and St. Peter. He also served St. Boniface Parish in Westphalia, Holy Spirit Parish in Creston and St. Edward Parish in Afton. Kenkel taught at Dowling Catholic High School for 27 years, from 1962 to 1989. He retired in 2008.

Wilwerding served St. Mary Parish in Shenandoah, St. Patrick in Imogene, St. Peter Parish in Council Bluffs in 1976, St. Mary Parish in Portsmouth from 1962 to 1965, St. Francis Parish in Council Bluffs in 1958 and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Atlantic in 1957. He was dismissed by the church in 2003.

Ryan served St. Mary in Portsmouth from 1950 to 1953. He was dismissed by the church in 2003.

Hobt was ordained in 1992 and served for three years at St. Augustin Catholic Church in Des Moines before being assigned to St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs before being placed on leave and later retiring in 2007.

Fitzgerald served at St. Albert High School in Council Bluffs in 1978, later serving at parishes including Urbandale, Portsmouth, Westphalia, Council Bluffs, Creston, Afton, Dunlap, Woodbine, Harlan, Altoona, Defiance, Earling, Mondamin, Glenwood and Indianola. He was placed on leave in 2014 and removed from the priesthood in 2015.