Arrest Warrant Issued for Former Priest
Clergyman Charged with 1978 Sex Assault of Boy in Outagamie County

By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 15, 2002

A warrant was issued Saturday for the arrest of a former northeast Wisconsin priest who was the subject of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with altar boys in Outagamie County, and who is accused of sexually assaulting one of the boys when the 12-year-old came to him for confession in 1978.

The priest, John Patrick Feeney, is believed to live in Los Angeles, said Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic.

The criminal complaint also charges Feeney with separate counts of the attempted sexual assault of the same youth and the attempted sexual assault of the boy's brother, who was 13 at the time.

Feeney, 75, had worked at 18 parishes over 30 years in the Green Bay diocese before he left Wisconsin in 1983 amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Had he remained in the state, the charges could not have been issued because the statute of limitations would have expired, Biskupic said. But the deadline is suspended if a suspect leaves the state, he said.

Feeney could be sentenced up to 35 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Biskupic said the diocese cooperated with his investigation.

According to the 12-page criminal complaint:

Feeney was pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Freedom in the spring of 1978 when the younger boy came to him for face-to-face confession. He asked the boy whether a girl had ever touched him "here" and grabbed the boy's crotch and penis.

The complaint says the attempted assaults occurred around the same time when the priest, a family friend, went to the boys' rooms to say good night, attempted to grab one boy's penis, and pinched the other boy's buttocks when he turned away.

The complaint also mentions alleged assaults on seven other boys from years earlier that were barred from prosecution by the statute of limitations. One of those boys claims he was sodomized by Feeney in 1969 when the boy was 14.

The allegations were uncovered by an Outagamie County Sheriff's Department investigation and were included in the complaint to show "what we believe was this priest's ultimate intent," Biskupic said.

At least one civil lawsuit was brought against Feeney and the Diocese of Green Bay over another incident and a victim who was not mentioned in the complaint. That case was settled out of court in 1995, around the time that the state Supreme Court ruled that the church could not be sued for a priest's misconduct, according to court records.

The Freedom parents at first attempted to work with the church on the matter, according to the complaint. Two mothers went to authorities only after learning that in January 1979, Feeney was transferred to St. Mary of the Seven Dolors in Stockbridge, rather than removed from the ministry as they had been promised.

However, the prosecutor dissuaded them from pursuing charges, saying the boys would be traumatized by a trial, according to the complaint.

Feeney remained in Stockbridge until an unidentified 1983 incident finally prompted church leaders to remove him from parish ministry in Wisconsin. In a letter reported in other news stories, then-Bishop Aloysius Wycislo warned Feeney that if he did not find a new bishop to sponsor him somewhere else, he would have to enter a treatment program or be prosecuted.

Feeney sought parish work in San Diego but could not get a bishop's approval. He then did get treatment at various centers in different states, according to church records cited in the complaint, and he found some work in non-parish ministry.

In 1986, Feeney was fired as a chaplain at the Indian Springs Prison in Las Vegas for bringing contraband to inmates. Then-Green Bay Bishop Adam Maida responded by stripping Feeney of the right to function as a priest, ordering him not to have contact with minors and to get additional treatment. Maida is now the archbishop in Detroit.

But Feeney apparently continued to get treatment at church expense at least until 1990. According to the complaint, several therapists reported to Maida that Feeney was sexually attracted to adolescent boys. The charges do not indicate what Feeney has been doing in recent years.

Feeney was ordained in Green Bay in 1952. In addition to the two parishes listed in the complaint, Feeney served at St. Joseph's in Green Bay, St. Joseph's in Sturgeon Bay, St. Joseph's in Clintonville, Holy Redeemer in Two Rivers, St. Therese's in Appleton, St. Mary's in Chilton, St. Edward's in Flintville, St. Ann's in Algoma, Holy Name Parish in Maplewood, St. Joe's in Wautoma, Holy Family in Elcho, St. Mary's in Pickerel, St. Francis of Xavier in De Pere, St. Bernadette's in Suamico and at unnamed parishes in Oshkosh and Kewaunee, according to information provided by the diocese that was quoted in the criminal complaint.


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