Former Altar Boy Testifies Priest Forced Oral Sex

By Brian Krans
Quad-Cities Online [Davenport IA]
September 13, 2006

As a child D. Michl Uhde was very involved in Sacred Heart Church in Davenport, even aspiring to become a priest.

In second grade, he was chosen to become an altar boy by now-deceased Msgr. Thomas Feeney.

"I couldn't have been prouder to be the youngest altar boy ever in the Cathedral," he testified Tuesday in Scott County District Court. "The Cathedral is special in the Diocese. It's the Bishop's church."

But Mr. Uhde, 56, said his honor would soon lead to the horror of sexual abuse by Msgr. Feeney -- abuse that continued for six years.

Mr. Uhde was the first witness in his $2.3 million lawsuit against the Diocese of Davenport for the alleged abuse by Msgr. Feeney, who died in 1981 following his retirement as vicar general of the Diocese. The lawsuit was filed in July 2005.

What started as a spanking for messing up during his training changed into something darker, Mr. Uhde said. The Msgr. began fondling him and even forced him to spank the monsignor, he testified.

Later it became "bird watching" outings at Credit Island park, where he was forced to perform oral sex on Monsignor Feeney.

"I went outside myself for that," he said. "I was shocked, I was mortified. I guess I was traumatized, looking back at it now."

When he was 13 years old, he told his mother, Marian Uhde, about the abuse following an outing with Msgr. Feeney. She went to an assistant priest at Sacred Heart, who said he could do nothing because Msgr. Feeney was his superior.

"This bothered me so much. I couldn't let this go. I had trusted priests all my life," Mr. Uhde's mother said, weeping during her testimony.

Not knowing what to do, she sent her son to live with relatives "to keep him away from Msgr. Feeney," she said. "Why should I have to send my child away when he did nothing wrong?"

Despite the abuse, Mr. Uhde remained interested in the priesthood. He attended St. Ambrose seminary, where he said he was sexually harassed by Bishop Lawrence D. Soens. He said he was kicked out when he had mentioned letting the secrets of the Diocese out.

Rand Wonio, an attorney for the Diocese, questioned why it took Mr. Uhde 40 years to file the lawsuit.

Mr. Uhde said he was tormented for years by the abuse, often self-medicating himself with alcohol. He blamed the abuse by clergymen for his two divorces and other problems. It wasn't until late February 2005 that he learned of others who had been abuse by Msgr. Feeney.

"I've isolated myself from everything. I was afraid if I brought this out, I'd go crazy. I felt I was the only one Feeney did this to. I thought I was bad or something," he said.

Testimony is scheduled to resume this morning.


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