Local Priest May Have Abused 50 Children
By Julie Nelson
February 27, 2014
[DOCUMENT: 1992 memo on Father Funcheon]
ST. PAUL, Minn. - He liked to be called "Father Jerry".
By his own account, Gerald Funcheon of the Catholic Order of the Holy Cross - the Croisers - started abusing young boys in the 1970's here in the Twin Cities.
"I suspect, and I don't remember, it would have been at it St. Odilia's," he testified in a 2012 deposition.
"The guy was a wolf," according to David Bidney, one of kids who says he was abused starting when he was just 10. "They hurt me bad. And they hurt a lot of kids bad."
In addition to St. Odilia's in Shoreview, Father Jerry served in parishes and schools in Anoka, Onamia, and St. Cloud plus other assignments literally from coast-to-coast.
Just last week, Father Funcheon's name was added to the local Archdiocese's official list of abusive priests.
But we wanted to know: when did church officials actually become aware of his abuse?
According to internal church records we found, it was more than 20 years ago.
This memo is dated October 1st 1992. By then it says Father Jerry is already in treatment.
It says he's admitted improper touching with young boys ages 10 and 16.
At least one of the complaints was from Minnesota, because the memo suggests talking to Father Kevin McDonough about the "Statute of Limitations" here. That's the same church official now at the center of a legal battle over whether he'll be forced to testify about how the church handled predatory priests.
"I was raised that those were the only men that talk to God," remembers David Bidney. "We can't. Only through them. Now, I know differently, you know."
Over the years, abuse victims like David have stepped forward to accuse Father Jerry.
We found law suits filed in 2003 and 2006 here in Minnesota, 2007 in Indiana, and in 2012 in California and Hawaii. Some have been settled – others are still being contested.
In one of those cases, Twin Cities attorney Jeff Anderson was able ask Father Jerry – under oath in 2012 – how many kids he'd sexually abused.
"I would say a dozen," Funcheon testified at first. But attorney Anderson challenged him, suggesting there are more victims.
Anderson – "Do you think you might be underestimating that number?
Funcheon –"Wow – I couldn't count 'em up. I'll go – I don't know. I'll go to 18. I can't give you a number on this, okay?"
KARE 11 discovered the real number could be much higher.
Remember that internal memo from 1992? It says that "in a conversation with (his) bishop" at the time, Father Jerry indicated there may be around "50 victims".
And just how sensitive is that information?
When a church official from Lafayette, Indiana – Funcheon's original home – asks to see copies of complaints about his "sexual misconduct" he promises they'll be "shredded immediately".
Nearly two decades after it was written, that memo was finally disclosed in a lawsuit in 2010.
And the priest's deposition? It's been posted publicly on YouTube for nearly a year.
And even though it's there for anybody to see, when the Archdiocese released its original list of abusive priests back in December Father Jerry Funcheon wasn't on it.
He wasn't added until last week, after an outside company hired by the church recommended it.
"I can't judge them," says abuse victim David Bidney. "But, boy, they're gonna be judged"
He says breaking the silence of secrecy in all abuse cases can't come quickly enough.
"The people that have been wounded need to come forward and get rid of that secret. That's a big healing thing. That's good."