Diocese Moved Priests When Allegations Arose

By Steve Wideman
May 31, 2002

The Diocese of Green Bay transferred priests accused of sexual abuse for decades, long before similar revelations in the Archdiocese of Boston sparked a nationwide examination of the Catholic Church.

dcIdc The Post-Crescent dc/Idc examined court and police documents in five counties in east-central Wisconsin and found nine cases -- dating from 1958 to this year -- involving allegations of sexual abuse lodged against priests in the 16-county diocese.

In one case, a priest was retained even after church officials were informed of allegations of abuse and torture of a teen-ager. In two others, priests were transferred to other parishes after the allegations surfaced.

One such case involved the Rev. John Patrick Feeney, who faced at least three allegations of sexually abusing four minors during his 30-year career with the diocese, Manitowoc County court records reveal.

Then-Bishop Aloysius J. Wycislo approved Feeney's transfer to a Calumet County parish in 1979 after allegations surfaced involving the abuse of two young boys in Freedom.

However, in an Oct. 3, 1983 letter to Feeney from Wycislo contained in court records, the diocese instructed Feeney that he would need to report to a treatment center "if you do not find a bishop willing to accept you."

"I think you see the wisdom of this alternative since time and time again I have been advised by civil servants, specifically the Attorney General, that unless the diocese prom-ised to provide for treatment, you would be prosecuted," Wycislo said in the letter.

The 1994 civil lawsuit against Feeney in Manitowoc was settled out of court.

Wycislo approved Feeney's move to a diocese in San Diego in 1983. Feeney's career ended in 1986 when he was defrocked by then-Bishop Adam Maida following his alleged involvement in smuggling drug paraphernalia into a Nevada prison where he was chaplain.

Feeney, now 75 and living in Los Angeles, said Thursday, "I certainly deny any allegations. ... It seems to me the allegations were resolved decades ago. It's not quite fair to resurrect them."

Tony Kuick, communications director for the diocese, said Thursday that the diocese's "policy is not to comment on priests' names suggested in the media."

A report by the eight-member task force, formed by Bishop Robert Banks, was released today. The task force reported that 39 diocesan priests since 1859 have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor, but listed no names. Six of the 39 are currently under investigation by district attorneys.

Since January, dozens of priests out of more than 47,000 nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign on suspicion of child molestation in a scandal that began in Boston.


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