Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Case continued
Merryfields' lawsuit can continue
Brothers suing Catholic Diocese for fraud
Updated: Wednesday, 08 Dec 2010, 9:47 AM CST
Published : Wednesday, 08 Dec 2010, 8:59 AM CST

APPLETON - A judge has denied the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay's request to dismiss a fraud lawsuit brought by two abuse victims.

Former priest John Feeney was convicted in 2004 of molesting Todd and Troy Merryfield in 1978, while Feeney was assigned to a parish in Freedom.

After Feeney was sentenced, the Merryfields sued the Diocese for fraud, claiming the Diocese knew Feeney had a history of abuse and did not warn parishioners or remove him from ministry. The Diocese asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing the statute of limitations had expired and that the Merryfields did not provide sufficient facts the Diocese had knowledge of Feeney's conduct.
However, in a ruling dated last week, Outagamie County Judge Nancy Krueger denied the Diocese's motion.

She ruled while the Merryfields were aware of the abuse, they were not aware of how the Diocese supervised Feeney or of other complaints against him until the criminal trial.

"The Court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Diocese fraudulently misrepresented that Feeney was not a risk to sexually abuse children or was not a danger to children, and could be safely placed in positions in which he had contact with children. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is therefore denied," Krueger wrote.

FOX 11 has contacted the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay for a response to this ruling.

Previously, the Diocese has issued statements that "the Diocese of Green Bay has and will continue to defend its innocence in the allegations of fraud."

Alice Hodek, co-director of the Green Bay chapter of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) praised the decision in a statement, saying "Feeney may have committed the child sex crimes but his bishops and church supervisors drive the getaway car."

No trial date has been scheduled.


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