Diocese Denies It Knew of Abuse by Priests

The Associated Press, carried in Des Moines Register
September 13, 2006

Davenport, Ia. — The Catholic Diocese of Davenport diocese denied allegations Wednesday that it knew its priests were sexually abusing children but did nothing to prevent further abuse.

Monsignor Michael Morrissey told jurors the diocese had no knowledge of allegations against the late Thomas Feeney, who allegedly abused a Davenport man for six years in the 1950s and 1960s, until another person came forward last year.

The Davenport man is suing the diocese for $2.3 million in damages. The trial started Monday in Scott County District Court and will resume today with more testimony.

This is the first time that the Davenport diocese has gone to trial on any of the more than 50 lawsuits filed against it by men alleging that when they were children, they were sexually abused by priests.

On Wednesday, jurors heard from two men who said they were also abused by Feeney — one in the early 1960s and the other in the late 1940s. The later victim said he suffered abuse similar to what the Davenport man endured, including bird-watching trips to Credit Island that ended with him being fondled.

Both men said they did not report the incidents to the diocese at the time.

Feeney served as the diocese's vicar general, or second in command until his death in 1981. In May the diocese acknowledged that Feeney sexually molested children in the 1950s and 1960s and encouraged victims to come forward.

A second lawsuit against him was filed in January 2006 by a Minnesota resident.

During Morrissey's testimony, he acknowledged that the church had no code of conduct for dealing with allegations of abuse until 1990.

A woman from Dubuque also testified Wednesday that Morrissey did not take notes when she told him in 1983 that former priest James Janssen sexually abused her.


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