Editor’s note: The following timeline was created following perusal of chancery files, voicemails, text messages and emails concerning Jerome Coyle.
Sept. 20, 1933: Jerome Coyle born
May 16, 1959: Coyle ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux City on May 16, 1959; first assignment is chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital, Le Mars
1959-1963: Faculty member, Bishop Heelan High School, Sioux City
1963-1964: Assistant pastor, Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City
1964-1966: Assistant pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, Sioux City
1966-1970: Pastor, Visitation Parish, Maryhill
1970-1972: Pastor, St. Margaret Parish, Rolfe
1972-1974: Pastor, St. Mary Parish, Armstrong
1974-1977: Pastor, Holy Angels Parish, Roselle
1977-1978: Pastor, St. Brigid Parish in Grand Junction, also at St. John Mission, Paton
1978-1986: Pastor, St. Cecilia Parish in Sanborn, also at St. Joseph Mission, Hartley. In 1985, Coyle requested to be trained as a hospital chaplain at Willmar (Minn.) State Hospital.
Feb. 7, 1986: The co-supervisor of the chaplain program sent a letter to Bishop Lawrence Soens stating Coyle had revealed that he was attracted to boys and had been “overt” in his behavior toward them. He suggested Coyle be sent to the Servants of the Paraclete Foundation House in Jemez Springs, N.M., for evaluation. Coyle is sent in the next month.
May 15, 1986: Bishop Soens received a letter from the Servants of the Paraclete, reporting that Coyle admitted that during a 20-year time period since his ordination, he wrongfully touched up to 50 boys, mostly between 7th to 10th grade.
May 22, 1986: Bishop Soens suspends Coyle and remands him to treatment at the foundation house beginning in July.
1986: During the balance of the year, Bishop Soens periodically received reports from the Servants of the Paraclete. Toward the end of the year, the staff believed Coyle could be helped. He remained in the program into 1987.
April 22, 1987: Bishop Soens received a final report from the Servants of the Paraclete, stating Coyle could work in a ministry or chaplaincy assignment that did not involve work with minors, like a retirement center or terminally ill hospital. It was recommended that Coyle meet regularly with a qualified spiritual director and a qualified therapist.
May 1987: Coyle returned to live temporarily with another priest at St. Boniface Church in Charter Oak, Iowa. Records reflect that during this time he sought employment as a hospital chaplain and in a penal facility.
October 1987: Coyle moved back to the foundation house for continued residential treatment.
May 9, 1988: A priest associated with Briar Cliff College contacted the chancery office. The hand-written notes indicated the priest had been in contact with an unidentified student at the college who stated that he had been molested years before by Coyle. According to the notes, the young man discontinued contact with the priest.
May 12, 1988: Bishop Soens sent Coyle a letter stating, “I am suspending you from all the priestly faculties which you currently have by reason of your being a priest in the Diocese of Sioux City. You are no longer to exercise any priestly functions in the name of the diocese nor to represent yourself to others as a priest in good standing with the Diocese of Sioux City. This suspension is for an indefinite period.”
July 11, 1988: Bishop Soens, in a letter to the director of the foundation house, stated, “I am convinced it is better for Jerry to accept that his past actions do have consequences which bear upon him in the present. One of those consequences should be his request for reduction to the lay state followed by his eventual attainment of some employment which will allow for his support, accompanied by counseling and supervision.”
Aug. 9, 1988: Coyle was offered an independent living apartment owned by the Servants of the Paraclete and encouraged to attend weekly therapy sessions.
Sept. 12, 1988: Bishop Soens agreed with the recommendation and Coyle moved into the apartment. He obtained a job in a restaurant and later as an office assistant.
Aug. 8, 1989: The director of the Servants of the Paraclete asked Bishop Soens to lift the suspension of Coyle “so that he may enjoy limited faculties in order to minister to the elderly in nursing homes in Albuquerque,” doing this under the supervision of the Servants of the Paraclete.
March 1990: Bishop Soens visited the Servants of the Paraclete. Coyle’s psychiatrist told the bishop that Coyle was not acting out sexually and was not a risk to the public at large. However, he clarified it would not be prudent to put Coyle in a situation with children.
Oct. 1, 1990: Bishop Soens amended the suspension to allow Coyle to offer Mass in the Servants of the Paraclete facilities, in addition to offering private Mass in his own apartment. Coyle was also allowed to offer the funeral Mass for his aged mother.
Oct. 31, 1990: Bishop Soens was advised that the independent living program would be dissolved at the end of the year and Coyle would need to find other living arrangements.
1991-2018: Coyle remained working, until his retirement, and living in Albuquerque.
June 15, 2002: The Dallas Charter was adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, mandating comprehensive changes in how allegations of clergy sexual abuse would be handled.
July 2002: Legal counsel for the Diocese of Sioux City sent a letter to the Woodbury County Attorney offering to discuss all claims or allegations of sexual abuse against minors. The county attorney indicated that he was only interested in cases in which the alleged perpetrator was living in Woodbury County. Other Iowa county attorneys were contacted regarding allegations that had been made against priests. The county attorneys were not interested in the information because the statute of limitations had expired for prosecution.
Dec. 11, 2017: Coyle and Reuben Ortiz, sharing a phone, leave a voicemail message for Bishop Walker Nickless. Ortiz and Coyle tell of Coyle’s auto accident on Nov. 14, 2017. Ortiz stated he had known Coyle for more than 10 years through his association with the Servants of the Paraclete. Since Ortiz felt that Coyle would not be able to return to his apartment and live independently, Coyle had been living with Ortiz and his family for about three weeks. More permanent living arrangements were being sought for Coyle.
Dec. 11, 2017: Bishop Nickless called Ortiz back and expressed his concern as to whether Ortiz was aware of Coyle’s background. Ortiz assured the bishop that Coyle had told him “everything” about fondling a boy, and Ortiz believed in “redemption and mercy.”
Feb. 5, 2018: Coyle’s living arrangements were brought to the attention of the Diocesan Review Board who felt that Coyle should not live with the Ortiz family, which included three teenagers. The board suggested an assisted living facility in Albuquerque. When Bishop Nickless contacted Ortiz about the review board’s misgivings in a phone conversation, Ortiz replied, “No, I want him here.”
Feb. 8, 2018: Father Brad Pelzel, vicar general of the diocese, spoke with Ortiz and his wife Tania on the phone concerning Coyle’s living situation, reiterating what the Review Board was recommending.
Feb. 12, 2018: Father Pelzel wrote two letters – one to Ortiz and one to Coyle. He indicated in these letters that it was not a good idea for Coyle to remain living with the Ortiz family because of “Coyle’s self-revealed history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys.”
March-April 2018: Emails, text messages and phone calls between Bishop Nickless, Coyle and Ortiz continue about where Coyle should live.
May 3, 2018: Ortiz, in an email, offers to come to Sioux City to help Coyle get “situated.”
May 2018: In several conversations with Bishop Nickless, Coyle said that Ortiz asked him for money for a new car. Coyle also shared that Ortiz asked him for power of attorney and access to his savings and checking accounts. Coyle’s bank accounts show withdrawals that totaled nearly $30,000 during the time Coyle resided with Ortiz.
May 25, 2018: Fort Dodge St. Edmond School dismissed for 2017-18 school year.
May 31, 2018: Coyle arrives at Marian Home in Fort Dodge. Staff at the Marian Home had been alerted about his Coyle’s past by Father Brad Pelzel to insure students were not allowed to go into the area where he lived. Msgr. Kevin McCoy, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, Fort Dodge, verbally informed the president and principal of St. Edmond School about Coyle’s residence at the home.
July 3, 2018: Ortiz commenced writing letters to numerous media outlets, several bishops, law enforcement agencies and the Marian Home, condemning the Diocese of Sioux City for not revealing Coyle’s sexual abuse history.
Oct. 30, 2018: Bishop Nickless holds the final of three listening sessions concerning clergy sexual abuse at Holy Trinity Parish, Corpus Christi Center. A woman asks about Coyle and Bishop Nickless responds (see story page 11).
Nov. 1, 2018: Coyle leaves the Marian Home. Fort Dodge police verify they had previously spoken with Coyle. The Webster County attorney said his office was aware of Coyle’s presence and background. In a letter to parents, St. Edmond School President Mary Gibb wrote that she was “deeply sorry” they had learned of the situation through news reports.
Dec. 6, 2018: A meeting has been scheduled with the Attorney General of Iowa concerning clergy in the Diocese of Sioux City accused of sexual abuse.