Accuser Takes Stand Again in Abuse Trial

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register [Iowa]
September 15, 2006

During a second day of testimony, attorneys for the Diocese of Davenport tried to chip away at the claim of an alleged victim of child sexual abuse that he was too mentally ill over past 40 years to enforce his legal rights.

Defense attorney Rand Wonio recalled D. Michl Uhde of Davenport to testify for a second time about damage done by alleged sexual abuse by Monsignor Thomas Feeney. Uhde, of Davenport, is suing the diocese for $2.3 million. Feeney, who served as vicar general for the diocese, died in 1981.

"Among a number of legal documents we brought to Mr. Uhde's attention were an August 2002 bankruptcy, dissolution of marriages and real estate transactions," Wonio said. If Uhde was able to negotiate these complicated legal documents, Wonio maintains the alleged abuse victim could have made his abuse claim in a more timely manner.

The trial, which began Monday in Scott County, is the first for the diocese. Although more than 50 men have alleged they were sexually abused by diocesan priests, the diocese has always in the past negotiated out-of-court settlements of the claims. In October 2004, the diocese paid $9 million to 37 claimants.

Others testifying Thursday were:

- Uhde's second wife, Julie DuBois, who said that in the mid-1980s Uhde told her he was fondled by a priest.

- James Brockway, a Burlington businessman, who said he could not corroborate Uhde's claim of sexual harassment by retired Sioux City Bishop Lawrence Soens.

Earlier Thursday, the jury heard testimony from Dr. Wayne Sliway, a psychologist specializing in cases involving sexual misconduct and abuse by professionals, including clergy. Sliway said Uhde suffered "considerable damage as a result of sexual trauma perpetrated by Monsignor Feeney."

On Wednesday, Uhde testified that the abuse began in 1957, when he was 7 and the youngest altar boy at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, "the bishop's church." The abuse did not end until six years later, when he told his mother.

Marian Uhde testified Wednesday that when she reported the abuse to an assistant priest at Sacred Heart she was told he could take no action because of Feeney's high position in the diocese. The family sent the boy away from Davenport to protect him from the priest, she testified.

The trial will resume today.

Religion Editor Shirley Ragsdale can be reached at (515) 284-8208 or


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