Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Green Bay diocese liable for molestation cover-up

Jury awards brothers $700K in Wis. diocese lawsuit
 Monday, May 21, 2012

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — An Outagamie County jury on Monday awarded two brothers $700,000 in a fraud trial against the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.

The civil jury found the diocese responsible Monday for concealing a former priest's history of child molestation.

Brothers Todd and Troy Merryfield sued the diocese in 2008, alleging the diocese was aware the Rev. John Feeney sexually assaulted others before 1978, when it assigned him to Freedom's St. Nicholas Church. Feeney was convicted in 2004 for the sexual assaults of the Merryfields and has already served his prison sentence.

The jury awarded Troy Merryfield $475,000 and Todd $225,000 in damages, The Post-Crescent reported....

Over the past week, Jeffrey Anderson and John Peterson, the Merryfields' attorneys, called several priests as witnesses. The priests testified there were allegations of inappropriate behavior by Feeney — that he swam naked with boys and showered with them after basketball games — long before he assaulted the Merryfields in 1978.

But the bishop, who died in 2005, said in a previous deposition testimony that if there was merit to complaints of sexual abuse by Feeney, he would have immediately suspended the priest.

Green Bay diocese liable for molestation cover-up                                     
May. 21, 2012

APPLETON — When an Outagamie County jury decided the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay covered up a priest’s history of child molestation, it sent a message to the rest of Wisconsin, an advocate for sexual abuse victims said....

Rev. John Feeney molested the Merryfields in 1978, when they were 12 and 14 years old. In 2004, Feeney was convicted of sexual assault of the brothers. After the criminal trial, the brothers said they learned the priest had a history of similar assaults in the 1960s and 1970s that the diocese knew about and hid from parishioners at St. Nicholas Church in Freedom, which the Merryfields attended.

So in 2008, they sued the diocese and now-deceased Bishop Aloysius Wycislo, who was in charge of ensuring priests were fit to serve, for fraudulent misrepresentation and sought unspecified damages....

Feeney was attending mental health counseling in 1974 after he touched girls inappropriately at a church retreat, Rev. Lawrence Canavera testified. Anderson and Peterson presented a letter forwarded from psychologist Thomas Kelley to the bishop stating under stress Feeney’s “usual controls over sexual impulses may fail and cause some indiscretions.”

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