Diocese Responds to Civil Action

Diocese of Green Bay
January 2, 2008

As reported in today's news, the Diocese of Green Bay has been named in a civil lawsuit alleging fraud by the Diocese pertaining to abuse in 1978 by John Feeney, a former priest of the Diocese who is now in prison.

The Diocese of Green Bay and its leaders wish to express their compassion for anyone who has been abused, particularly those who have been harmed by Church ministers. One of the primary responsibilities of the Church is to be the face of God to others, and causing harm to anyone is contrary to our mission.

In terms of the lawsuit, our nation's legal system is based on an adversarial relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. Today, the lawyers for the plaintiffs in this case have tried to present the Diocese in a damaging light. In the weeks ahead, the Diocese will have its opportunity to respond to the allegations of the lawsuit in Outagamie County Circuit Court.

In announcing the lawsuit, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) issued a news release in which it claimed to have uncovered "secret documents" of the Church. We take exception to this claim. We have always cooperated with civil authorities, and this includes providing any and all documents that they have requested.

Lastly, we want to assure people that through the years we have worked hard to educate our leaders and volunteers on how to provide a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults. Since 2003, more than 17,000 people in our Diocese alone have undergone criminal background checks. This includes all staff and volunteers at our parishes, schools and diocesan offices. Likewise, all staff and volunteers have participated in Virtus training. Virtus is an educational program that helps people understand how to create safe environments and what to do if they suspect inappropriate behavior. Additionally, the Diocese has undergone and passed all five audits in the last five years. During the audits, former FBI agents assessed and approved our compliance with the National Charter approved by the U.S. Bishops in 2003.

The Catholic Church takes very seriously the safety of all people of all ages.


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