Diocese Denies Link to Priest

The Associated Press, carried in Chicago Tribune [Rockford IL]
February 26, 2006,1,7837791.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford said Friday that a now-deceased priest accused of abusing a teen in 1969 never was under the diocese's direction.

Rev. Theodore Feely was a member of the Franciscan order and did not work for the diocese, spokesman Owen Phelps said in a statement. Diocese officials first learned of abuse allegations against Feely four years ago, Phelps said. Feely died in 1991.

Both the diocese and the Chicago-based Conventual Franciscans of St. Bonaventure Province were named in the lawsuit filed Thursday by Donald Bondick of Rockford.

Bondick accuses Feely of raping him in 1969 when he was 13.

At a news conference, Bondick said Feely worked with young people and youth sports at his family's church, St. Anthony of Padua in Rockford. Feely also was a friend of the family who watched Chicago Bears games with Bondick's father at the family's home, Bondick said.

His lawsuit, which seeks more than $50,000, alleges that the diocese did not do enough to protect children from Feely.

The Rockford diocese, which covers northwestern Illinois and Kane and McHenry Counties, had declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

In its statement Friday, the diocese said all the charges against it in the lawsuit are false.

The diocese said that when it learned in 2002 of abuse allegations against Feely, it immediately notified officials of Feely's order, who notified parishioners at St. Anthony.

"Sexual abuse of minors is a grave sin and heinous crime," the statement read. "Victims should be comforted and assisted in their efforts to achieve healing, perpetrators should be severely punished and the public should be protected from them."

An official with the Franciscans said the order might have a statement to make about the case in the next week.


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