Diocese Looks to Defrock Ex-Priest

By Dan Wilson
January 9, 2005

GREEN BAY -- Green Bay Bishop David Zubik has filed a request with the Vatican to defrock a former Catholic priest convicted of sexually assaulting two boys.

Last April, John Patrick Feeney, 78, was sentenced in Outagamie County Circuit Court to 15 years in prison on three counts of attempted sexual assault of a child and one count of sexual assault of a child.

At the time of Feeney's conviction after a February jury trial, Zubik issued a statement expressing his sympathies for the victims and said "we have begun taking the steps necessary to remove him from the clerical state."

Last week, Renae Bauer, public relations coordinator for the diocese, confirmed that request was forwarded to the Vatican last month.

"As promised last February, I have officially asked the Holy See to remove father John Feeney from the clerical state and I await their decision," Zubik said in a statement. "Once again, I extend my apologies to those who have been hurt by Father Feeney's actions. Please know that I continue to pray daily for all involved."

The Holy See is the office of the pope.

Feeney was convicted of sexually assaulting two brothers, ages 12 and 14, when he was parish priest at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom in 1978. Feeney is serving his sentence in the Fox Lake Correctional Institution.

The two brothers, who testified at his trial, are now 39 and 40.

Feeney is appealing his sentence and is scheduled for a post-conviction hearing in front of Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dennis Luebke on Friday.

Feeney has not performed any priestly duties since 1986, when then-Bishop Adam Maida stripped Feeney of his faculties, in effect denying him the ability to act as a priest.

Mark Salmon, spokesman for the Wisconsin Chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the action should have been taken long ago when the allegations against Feeney first surfaced.

"I don't know how many parents have to tell you he is up to something before they take any action," he said.


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