Thursday, April 4, 2013

Green Bay, Wisconsin, diocese settles with abuse victims

The Green Bay, Wisconsin, diocese, in a surprise decision, has agreed to settle with two victims of a paedophile priest. Here is the NCR report.
The case is the first in Wisconsin in which the church was accused of committing fraud by knowingly allowing a pedophile priest to continue in ministry without alerting parishioners.
This is something of a climb down for the diocese. What was its initial stand?
“In mediation before the trial, [the diocese] offered to donate $5,000 to charity if we would write a letter of apology for dragging the church through all of this,” Todd Merryfield, one of the victims, told NCR March 22.

Here is the time line for this saga, I put together from the NCR article.
  • 1978: Todd Merryfield and his brother Troy (aged 12 and 14) abused by Fr. John Feeney, their parish priest.
  • 1978: Bishop Aloysius Wycislo writes that he had to move Feeney out of the state.
  • 1986: Fr. Feeney, now a Nevada jail chaplain, accused of smuggling in drug paraphernalia and pornography in exchange for sexual contact with inmates.
  • 1987: Fr. Feeney sent for treatment in Maryland.
  • 1989: Fr. Feeney sent for treatment in New Mexico.
  • 1991: Fr. Feeney listed as retired.
  • 1995: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that the church can not be sued for negligently supervising priests.
  • 2002: Fr. Feeney convicted by a jury and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • 2004: John Jay College of Criminal Justice report lists 50 priests from the Green Bay diocese who had abused minors (still not publicly named).
  • 2005: Fr. Feeney is laicized (defrocked).
  • 2007: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that the church can be sued for fraud if they knew of credible allegations of misconduct against a priest and failed to warn parishioners
  • 2008: Todd and Troy sue the Green Bay diocese
  • 2012 May: Jury awards the two victims $700,000.
  • 2013 March 19: Green Bay diocese agrees to pay $700,000.
 Now, how about releasing the names of the 50 priests?
Fr. John Doerfler, the chancellor of the Green Bay diocese, admitted in a 2010 deposition that all documents related to priests accused of sexual abuse who had been laicized or dead for more than a year had been shredded.

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