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Justice Prosser urged parents not to press case against priest pedophile, new documents show
Fr. Feeney went on to sexually assault children in three states
Green Bay, Wisconsin, January 13, 2008 -- David Prosser, justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, urged victims of childhood sexual assault by pedophile priest Fr. John Patrick Feeney not to bring a criminal case against him in the late 1970’s. Prosser at the time was District Attorney of Outagamie County.
The revelations are part of the first documents ever made pubic in Green Bay concerning the inner workings of the diocesan officials in the decades long clergy sexual abuse cover up. Those documents were filed this month in a civil fraud case against officials of the Green Bay diocese.
According to records of a 2002 police investigation, Prosser had met with victims and their families in the summer of 1978. When victim’s parents spoke to Prosser about charging Feeney, Prosser told them: “It would be too hard to put the boys on the stand and be questioned about a well known priest in the area.”
After Prosser declined to bring charges, Feeney went on assaulting children in at least three states. Feeney, according to a review by church officials, had reports and allegations of sexual misconduct in every one of his 20 assignments, including “his very first one.”
It is unclear if Prosser ever met with Feeney or his bishop or followed up with church officials about Feeney’s new assignments.
Documents show, however, that five years later Feeney’s criminal behavior against children was brought to the attention of the Wisconsin Attorney General.
In 1983 letter, then Bishop Aloysius Wycislo of Green Bay wrote to Feeney that, “Time and time again I have been advised by civil servants, specifically the Attorney General, that unless the diocese promised to provide treatment for you, you would be prosecuted.” In response to that demand, Wycislo gave Feeney the option of getting treatment or finding an out-of-state bishop who would let Feeney work in parishes elsewhere. “It seems to be in your best interest that another diocese, another atmosphere, new people and new faces might be the answer to your problem,” wrote Wyciso. “I am capable of forgetting all this and writing a good letter of recommendation to a new bishop.”
Feeney was transferred to Las Vegas, Nevada.
After leaving the Outagamie county DA’s office, Prosser was elected to the state legislature and appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1998. One of Prosser’s first decisions was to uphold and extend the Wisconsin Court’s landmark 1995 controversial Pritzlaff decision, which barred victims of childhood sexual assault from brining cases against abusive clergy or their bishops, arguing that filing such claims would violate the first amendment. Justice Patrick Crooks, writing for the majority in another clergy abuse case earlier, explained the decision: “A bishop may determine that a wayward priest can be sufficiently reprimanded through counseling and prayer."
The Wisconsin Supreme court is scheduled this term to hear two clergy abuse cases, including one which will review the “tolling” provision of Wisconsin state law which brought Feeney to justice in 2004. Feeney is now serving time in a Wisconsin prison. If the justices rule for the complainant in the new case, Fr. Bruce McArthur, Feeney could be set free.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests