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,” Pates said. “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.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

A substantiated claim of abusing a minor is when sufficient evidence exists to establish “reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged abuse occurred,” the diocese said Thursday.

It is not the same as a criminal conviction.

The following served in southwest Iowa:

Wagner served at Holy Family Parish in Council Bluffs from 1961-64, as president of Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines from 1965-76, St. Michael’s Parish in Harlan from 1976-82, St. Patrick Catholic Church in Council Bluffs from 1982-87 and St. Mary’s Parish in Red Oak from 1987-94. Wagner allegedly abused a female in the late 1980s. He was laicized in 2006.

The diocese 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 that 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 from 1976-77, St. Mary Parish in Portsmouth from 1962-65, St. Francis Parish in Council Bluffs from 1958-60 and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Atlantic from 1957-58.

He was removed from ministry in 1981 and died before being laicized.

Ryan served at St. Mary in Portsmouth from 1950 to 1953, among other assignments. He was laicized in 2006.

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

Fitzgerald served at St. Albert High School from 1978-83 and at numerous parishes in communities including Portsmouth, Westphalia, Council Bluffs, Creston, Dunlap, Woodbine, Harlan, Altoona, Defiance, Earling, Mondamin, Glenwood and Indianola. He was removed from ministry in 2014 and laicized in 2015.

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.