October 30, 2014

Green Bay diocese settles with abuse victims

The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay will settle a lawsuit brought forth by two brothers who were molested by a priest in the 1970s. The now-defrocked John Feeny was convicted in 2004 of sexually assaulting Todd and Troy Merryfield, who were 12 and 14 at the time of the abuse.

The brothers later sued the diocese and last year was awarded $700,000 in damages. The diocese appealed. After a juror was found to be impartial, the judge tossed out the jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial set for May 6. However, the diocese on Tuesday announced it will pay the brothers $700,000 as part of a settlement.

“These are two very courageous survivors who really found their voice and spoke up loudly and truly to protect other kids,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the Merryfields.

The Merryfields had accused the diocese of fraud, alleging it covered up Feeny’s sexual history.

Green Bay Bishop David Ricken released a statement Tuesday:

“First and foremost, I would like to say I am truly sorry to Todd Merryfield and Troy Merryfield, as well as their families, for the pain they have endured from child sexual abuse and the lawsuits that followed. I hope and pray that they can experience God’s healing presence within their hearts. 

Not only do I offer my sincere apology to the Merryfields, but to all of God’s children who have been impacted from child sexual abuse, especially the victims/survivors. Each time I have personally met and listened to their experiences and concerns, I am reminded of the profound affects this abuse has on their lives.

I recognize the suffering of those who have been harmed and promise to work with all those interested in rebuilding their trust in the Church.

As the current shepherd of the Diocese of Green Bay, I am genuinely sorry and will continue to keep them close in prayer as they heal.

It has been 10 years since the implementation of the United States bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in June 2002. During this time and continuing into the future, it has been our pledge to create an environment that protects our children and individuals at risk from harm. The faithful of the Diocese of Green Bay deserve to be treated with dignity, charity and respect, and to be served by men and women who fully reflect the love and protection of Jesus Christ.”

Anderson says they will continue to fight for more transparency from the diocese saying the organization continues to “keeps secrets, protects predators and deceives parishioners.

Terry Lee-WTAQ contributed to this report