Convicted Priest Says He Was 'Fooled'

Associated Press
July 15, 2002

Brownsville, Texas — A former Rio Grande Valley priest said he was deceived when he helped child molester James Porter stay in the ministry.

"I tell you, the man had me fooled. He was deceptively charming," John B. Feit said in a story in Tuesday's edition of The Brownsville Herald.

Feit made recommendations about priest assignments even though he had been convicted in connection with a young woman's sexual assault.

Catholic officials and victims advocates have expressed shock that a man with a criminal record provided advice to cardinals and bishops regarding the church's troubled priests.

Porter assaulted more than 100 victims before he was ultimately defrocked and sent to prison.

Feit was among men whose recommendations helped some of the church's worst molesters gain new assignments, The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday.

In 1962, Feit pleaded no contest to aggravated assault in connection with the attempted rape of a 20-year-old college student. The woman testified during the trial that the priest had attacked her inside Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Edinburg.

Feit told the Brownsville newspaper, which conducted a telephone interview with him on Friday from his Phoenix home, that he did not commit the assault.

"I was out of the loop," Feit said. "I didn't know that I would be convicted and found guilty on a plea of no contest. I didn't know what that meant."

He was tried the previous year on a more serious charge of assault with intent to rape, but jurors deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.

Feit's order sent him to the Holy Servants of the Paraclete, the Jemez Springs, N.M., treatment center for troubled priests, in the early 1960s. Within a few years he became a supervisor and had a part in clearing Porter for assignments to parishes where he continued his attacks.

Feit left the priesthood in 1972, married and now works for a lay Catholic charity in Phoenix.

The present leader of the Paracletes, who oversees the order and the New Mexico center from his base office in Missouri, said he was stunned to hear of Feit's criminal past.

"This is obviously something that is shocking," said the Rev. Peter Lechner. "What kind of effect did his administration have when he had pled no contest to assault? I am deeply concerned of what happened back then."

Lechner has been at his post for more than a decade and did not serve in the capacity when Feit was there.

"Certainly, this is something that is leading me to ask questions to myself," Lechner said. "I am so sorry."


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