Merryfields Dropped Charges in 1970s

By Natalie Arnold
January 3, 2008

Todd and Troy Merryfield are suing the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay for the molestation they suffered at the hands of a priest as teenagers (see related story).

When the abuse happened in the late 1970s, the Merryfield family went to police. They dropped the charges when the diocese assured them the problem would be solved.

Standing on the steps of the diocese offices Wednesday, the Merryfields said they don't want to fight this battle. Instead, they say, they have to.

"We've got a job to do, whether we like it or not," Todd Merryfield said. "We have a responsibility to carry this all the way through."

Todd said he was 14 years old at the time Father John Patrick Feeney assaulted him, and his brother Troy was just 12. When they told their parents, the family immediately went to police.

According to documents filed in the lawsuit Wednesday, the diocese convinced the family it would solve the problem, so the Merryfields quietly let it go. Instead, the suit alleges, Feeney was moved to another parish like he had been many times before.

"For someone to be able to do that over that period of time to that many kids... it takes your breath away how extensive the cover-up is," Todd said.

While Feeney was the perpetrator, the brothers believe the Green Bay diocese was the facilitator, making it very easy for a pedophile to have access to children.

"The cover-ups, the lying, that continues," Troy said, "moving around people, not taking responsibility for their people. It's got to stop."

Which is why they are at the diocese's door, talking about their greatest pain.

"It's a really tough thing to deal with, and the diocese has never taken account for what happened a long time ago," Troy said.

Ultimately, a jury believed the Merryfields. Feeney, 81, is in prison.

Now these brothers want the Diocese to answer for what happened, too. "They are going to be held accountable," Todd said. "They have to be. It can't ever occur again."


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