Davenport Diocese Denies Prior Knowledge of Clergy Abuse

Sioux City Journal
September 15, 2006

Davenport, Iowa (AP) -- The 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 Thursday with more testimony.

Jurors heard two brief testimonials from men who claim 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 and slapped on the stomach.

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, from 1968 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. He has been named in at least six abuse cases.

During Morrissey's testimony, he acknowledged that the church had no code of conduct for dealing with allegations of abuse until 1990 and didn't train priests on moral conduct concerning children until 1985.

A woman from Dubuque also testified Wednesday that Morrissey did not take notes and seemed uninterested when she told him in 1983 that former priest James Janssen sexually abused her. Morrissey was vicar general at the time.

The plaintiff's attorney, Craig Levien, presented several letters from the 1950s as evidence during Morrissey's testimony. The letters between authorities, YMCA officials and the diocese detailed allegations of sexual abuse against Janssen, his dismissal and referral to a psychiatrist for treatment. Janssen later was reinstated and allegedly committed more acts of abuse.

Morrissey said there were no such letters concerning Feeney.

Levien also referred to a deposition Morrissey gave in 1992 in which he said he knew of only two priests facing allegations of abuse. Morrissey acknowledged Wednesday that he knew of at least four other priests facing such claims at the time, but didn't mention them because no legal action had been taken.

Since 2004, the diocese has reached settlements estimated at about $10 million with dozens of abuse victims.


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