Diocese Hit with Another Suit

By Thomas Geyer
Quad-City Times [Iowa]
January 26, 2006

Another lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the Catholic Diocese of Davenport claiming that a now deceased monsignor sexually abused a 10-year-old boy while he was assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral in the 1960s.

Filed in Scott County District Court by Donald Kloss, the lawsuit also alleges that Msgr. Thomas Feeney was promoted to vicar general, or second in command, of the diocese despite the fact that the diocese then under the Most Rev. Gerald O'Keefe knew about the abuse allegations.

In his lawsuit, Kloss alleges that the abuse began in 1967 when he was 10 years old and was attending Sacred Heart where Feeney was pastor.

Kloss is requesting an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

It is the second lawsuit filed against the diocese specifically naming Feeney.

Michl Uhde filed a lawsuit in Scott County District Court in July alleging that he was 7 years old when Feeney began abusing him. It ended in the seventh grade when he told his mother and she reported it.

Uhde has said that Feeney would take him to Credit Island on alleged bird watching excursions. It was there and at other places that Feeney allegedly abused Uhde.

Davenport attorney, Craig Levien, who is representing both Kloss and Uhde, said that his client lives out of state and recently became aware of the pending litigation pending against the diocese in other cases.

"A relative contacted him about the Uhde case and through that he learned he was not the only one," Levien said.

"The importance of this as indicated in the lawsuit is that there was a complaint about Feeney, and even after this complaint, he was promoted to vicar general, or second in command of the diocese," he said. "They knew or should have known he had these propensities."

He added that it often takes a long time for abuse victims to come to grips with what happened to them and then to take action.

Diocese spokesman David Montgomery said the diocese received a copy of the lawsuit Wednesday, but has not had an opportunity to review it.

Rand Wonio, attorney for the diocese, said Wednesday he also received a copy of the lawsuit, but he could not comment because no one has had time to investigate the claims made in the suit. "We will conduct a full and fair investigation of the allegations," he said.

Uhde said Wednesday that he is not surprised that someone else has come forward with allegations against Feeney.

"I've already talked to a number of other victims of Feeney that contacted me," he said. "So this is no surprise at all."

He said as far as he is aware, his and Kloss' are the only lawsuits against the diocese specifically naming Feeney, but there may be some people that are trying to work through mediation instead of going through the courts.

"I know that some who called me to offer support let me know that they were not going to proceed with any claim, but that they were available to testify," Uhde said.

Uhde said as vicar general, Feeney had access to and control over the diocese's records, as did a later vicar general, Drake Shafer, who had allegations against him. Shafer has been on leave pending the resolution of a civil lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s. The suit was settled last year.

"Anything that was said about him he had access to," Uhde said of Feeney. "That is why we've asked the diocese to name the names of the people who had access to those records and control of them, and why known pedophiles were put into those positions."

Feeney was assigned as chancellor of the diocese, chaplain of Mercy Hospital, and propagation of the faith and of the Association for Holy Childhood from 1943 to 1953. He was pastor at Sacred Heart from 1953 to 1968, and then pastor at St. Anthony's Parish from 1968 to 1981. He also was vicar general from 1968 to 1981. He died in 1981.

The diocese agreed in October 2004 to pay $9 million to settle 37 civil claims.

Thomas Geyer can be contacted at

(563) 383-2328 or


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