A sunrise broken by gunfire on a school bus. An investigation as to the root cause of the gunfire suffocated. Wuerl let it be suffocated.
A sunrise broken by gunfire on a school bus. An investigation as to the root cause of the gunfire suffocated. Wuerl let it be suffocated.
By Patrick Pontillo
by guest writer Mike Ference, detailing the experience of having
a son get shot in the back of the head and then to be treated as
an impediment to Wuerl’s rise to power. Edited as to its syntax.
Diplomatically abridged as to its contents.
The sodomizing of youth by Catholic clergy members and then covered
up by church hierarchs was something seldom discussed. It was seldom
discussed until the media broke open the seals of secrecy that were once
glazed over Cardinal Bernard Law’s disgraced Boston Archdiocese.
It was twenty-three years ago when I was forced to begin investigating
similar things in the county where sits Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This
was because a fifteen year old youth allegedly preoccupied with the
Occult, Satanism, and devil-worship attempted to murder my son,
Adam, on a school bus. The same youth then killed himself.
My investigation began in December of 1989. This means that I was
forced to start my work thirteen calendar years before veteran journal-
ists of the Boston Globe exposed Catholic Church red hatter Bernie
Law for having habitually covered the criminal actions of priests. Ten
years after having begun my investigations, the Philadelphia district at-
torney’s office put to bed the prosecution of every Philadelphia area
cleric accused of the same old crimes and the same old cover ups.
Being a molester in Pennsylvania was a lucrative pastime, at the time.
The attack on my son took place on the morning of December 5, 1989,
around 8:00 am. A bus carrying Serra Catholic High School students
began its approach toward the school’s entrance doors. A bus loaded
with dozens of teenagers was beginning to cross onto Serra Catholic
school grounds when the would-be assassin pulled out a loaded hand-
gun and blasted a shot into the back of my son’s head. He next placed
the gun to his temple and fired the second shot.
Two ambulances transferred my son and the shooter to the McKeesport
Hospital. Both young men were admitted to the same emergency room,
separated by the curtains surrounding their beds. A telephone call from
Brother Chuck, the guidance counselor of Serra Catholic, served notice
to our family to get to the McKeesport Hospital Emergency Room as
soon as possible.
Ironically, my wife, my eldest son, and I arrived at the hospital before
the ambulances did. While a paramedic was pushing a gurney through
a hallway, I shouted to the man, “If that’s Adam Ference, tell him his
parents are here.” The body was completely covered. Deep-down in-
side, and without saying a word, I hoped and I prayed it wasn’t Adam.
Seconds later came another gurney, being pushed through the hallway.
It was Adam, sitting up. He was conscious, but I wasn’t sure how
alert he was.
A nurse came to escort me back to where my son was. I still didn’t
know what happened. A disheveled detective from the McKeesport
Police Department approached my wife and I. He recklessly pulled a
gun from a brown paper bag and asked if we had ever seen the wea-
pon before. Confused and bewildered, we shook our heads sideways,
quietly saying no. A teacher would then pull the detective to the side
and tell him that we weren’t the parents he needed to talk to.
I watched an ER room’s bed sheets get saturated with blood as the
shooter lay dead, no doubt from the 32-caliber self-inflicted gunshot
wound. It was a shot taken seconds after the shooter blasted my
son’s skull with his first shot, done while my son sat directly in front
of him, half asleep.
Minutes later, a nurse called me into the emergency room, to see my
son. I tried to reassure him that everything would be alright, as he
seemed to daze in and out of consciousness. I caught myself glanc-
ing back and forth from the wound in the back of my son’s head to
the blood-stained sheets of the shooter in the bed next to my son.
It were as if I was watching a tennis match or a ping pong game.
I prayed and promised God that I would do whatever I could to make
things right, not knowing what that meant, and still not knowing what
exactly happened. Now, I knew that Adam could never intentionally
harm anyone with a gun. But, I figured that he might have accidental-
ly tripped someone, resulting in multiple gun shots being unleashed from
a loaded weapon. So, I kept promising God that I would do whatever
it took to make things right. Sadly, I heard a father crying; weeping
over his son’s dead body. All but for the grace of God, the father in
anguish could have been me.
Twenty-three years later, I’m still trying to keep the promise I made
in the McKeesport ER. Needless to say, Donald Wuerl has been a
ruthless antagonist, preventing the truth from being uncovered. This
Wuerl keeps us in the dark, in so many diabolical ways.
Several weeks after the shooting, my son was well on his way to re-
covery. Several weeks after the shooting, a seasoned law enforce-
ment officer who actively participated in the investigation, ended up
sitting in my living room, alleging to my wife and I that the investiga-
tion of my son’s attempted murder was deliberately quashed by the
McKeesport Police Chief (Thomas Brletic) and his investigating of-
ficers. The man who alleged this to me was and is William Scully.
At the time, Scully was the Public Safety Officer of Clairton. At the
time, Clairton no longer had a police force, due to the economic woes
which followed the demolition of the Pittsburgh steel industry. Prior
to being Clairton’s public safety director, Scully was assistant chief
of police for the same town of Clairton and served several years as
a police officer there.
To compensate for the case being allegedly quashed, Scully provid-
ed me with specific notes and details about the shooter. He alleged
that the shooter was sexually abused by Fr. John Wellinger, a parish
priest at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA. Prior to Wellinger’s
assignment at Holy Spirit, he was an assistant pastor of Saint Clare
of Assisi Church, in Clairton. The shooter served as an altar boy for
Fr. Wellinger at St. Clare’s.
According to several sources, the shooter was often an after-school
guest of Wellinger, at the parish rectory house, along with other boys.
It was a parish house equipped with a pool table, pinball machines
and other facilities which keeps young boys amused for hours.
Scully also provided specific information about Wellinger allegedly
harming a teenager from Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin. This
harming allegedly occurred circa 1987 or 1988. I even received an
email from the alleged victim in 2011 that suffices as evidence that
easily confirms my allegations on the topic.
As time progressed, I would eventually speak with several sources.
The sources included a retired police chief of West Mifflin, as well
as a police officer of the same West Mifflin whose son was alleged-
ly molested by the same John Wellinger. My sources also included
several ladies who worked along side Wellinger at Holy Spirit Parish.
There was even the matter of a woman who may have known John
Wellinger intimately. Added to the list is the former Pittsburgh Post
Gazette investigative reporter who alleged that Wellinger once made
a homosexual pass at him. An additional source included a Florida
man who once visited Wellinger at Holy Spirit Parish, and alleged
that Wellinger wanted to perform an unnatural act on his person.
Plus, there was the teenager to whom Wellinger allegedly supplied
a spiked alcoholic beverage which knocked the youth out for hours.
Concerning the youth, he eventually returned to consciousness and
dialed 911. He then allegedly staggered down apartments stairs, to
meet an awaiting ambulance which allegedly took the youth to then
Presbyterian University Hospital (now part of the University of Pitts-
burgh Medical Center).
According to the allegations, he and his family were victimized yet
again, in the alleged cover-up that followed. It’s sad that it has taken
over 23 years for me to release my information with just a scant hope
of justice finally being served. Tragically speaking, as I have tried to
draw attention to the various crimes and cover ups, I can only imagine
how many more victimscould have been saved from being victimized,
if only Wuerl and government officials would have applied an element
of human decency and did what needed to have been done.
Michael Unglo is one person who immediately comes to mind. Mike
committed suicide shortly after the Diocese of Pittsburgh, under Bish-
op David Zubik, stopped financing his psychiatric treatment. Now, the
Pittsburgh diocese had already payed $300,000 in psychiatric bills for
Michael. But, Mike suffered from flashbacks, due to the alleged mo-
lestations of the defrocked Richard Dorsch who receives a thousand
dollar a month stipend (pension) from the diocese.
Meanwhile, homosexual con artist Fr James Torquato immediately
canceled all business contracts with his accuser’s uncle, and Wuerl
ratified Fr. Torquato’s act of economic terrorism, as if Wuerl were
performing the terrorism himself. Basically, James Torquato black-
mailed his accuser’s uncle. The uncle was to get Torquato’s accus-
er to retract his accusations against Torquato or else lose significant
I would like to point out something about my son’s attempted murder.
The shooter was not sitting is his regular seat that day, nor did he get
on at his regular stop. My son did sit in his regular seat, close to the
window. The shooter was allegedly in the aisle seat behind him. This
means that he was originally catty-corner to Adam. Well, he alleged-
ly switched seated and was now exactly behind Adam.
The exact conjecture as to what was transpiring during the attempted
murder of my son was thwarted by parents not allowing their children
to be interviewed by law enforcement investigators. Depositions exist
which can be supplied as proof of a community-wide cover up.
Concerning Adam’s case, I had sought help from many people in gov-
ernment. I was referred to an Allegheny County detective by form-
er a PA State Trooper, named Robert Griffin. Griffin was brought
into the case in 1989 and investigated the Satanic and Occult inter-
ests of my son’s shooter and the shooter’s friends. The detective to
whom I was referred simply stated that the Diocese of Pittsburgh
was covering up crimes for years. The offending priests would be
shuffled from one parish to another, the detective alleged. He made
it sound as if there was nothing he could do about it.
There is a long list of state troopers who did absolutely nothing. Like-
wise, the same nothing came from former Pennsylvania Senator and
Catholic Church lobbyist, Rick Santorum. Senator Arlen Spector al-
so chose to ignore my case, as did Congressman Mike Doyle. Plus,
Carol Burke, Chief of Staff for State Rep David Levdansky, simply
advised me to get over it.
An FBI agent did exist who was well-aware of Wellinger’s alleged
sexual shenanigans, but the agent was preoccupied with the investi-
gation into a drug raid gone bad which resulted in a fellow agent be-
ing killed. So, the Pittsburgh diocese has been getting a free pass,
ever since the tenure of Anthony Bevilacqua. Include Wuerl’s ten-
ure also, especially in light of the fact that Wuelr paid no price for
his alleged absence of cooperativeness during an investigation that
resulted in the arrests of Wolk, Zula, and Pucci. Wuerl also paid
no price thus far, for ratifying the Torquato retaliations.
Allegheny County’s Courthouse is located on Grant Street, in down-
town Pittsburgh. Supposedly, justice is served there. Sadly enough,
some of the PA judges were bought and sold like stolen merchandise
at outdoor flea markets. I cite the infamous Luzerne County “Cash
for Kids” scandal that sent two greed-infested Pennsylvania judges to
federal prisons, after years of locking up children in private juvenile de-
tention centers for things as petty as summary offenses.
The detention centers are owned by Gregory Zappala, son of former
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Zappala, Sr and
brother of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr.
Sadly enough, one of the victims of this barbaric practice would end
up committing suicide after two incarcerations. His death would take
place on the 10th of June, 2010, the same day when Allegheny County
District Attorney Stephen Zappala was sworn in as a member of the
board that oversees clergy sex abuse allegation, under the auspices
of the United States Bishop’s Conference.
It’s pertinent to point out that the attempted murder of my son took
place in McKeesport, PA. It’s a section of the Mon Valley jokingly
referred to as Mob Valley. It’s the last place one expects to find any
semblance of justice. McKeesport is filled with case after case of
systematic and deliberate cover ups of criminal behavior, most often
alleging McKeesport police and democratic officials as being at the
center of the alleged cover ups.
Some allegations involved: 1] a dead teenage girl whose body was
found in a McKeesport cemetery, 2] a woman held captive for al-
most a decade by a McKeesport School district security guard, and
3] the Cornell Elementary School scandal which allegedly involved
two McKeesport teachers doing their best to imitate dogs in heat,
while two other teachers allegedly did their best to act like watch-
dogs. All actions were either well concealed or never happened.
None the less, the allegation that Fr. John Wellinger molested the
shooter of my son, as well as had drugged-up the drink of another
youth, were things stated in Scully’s notes. Thus, these allegations
came from someone who had official status.
I’ve also met and talked with yet, another accuser of former Pitts-
burgh clergy member, John Wellinger. This accuser was one of the
plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
His parents were parishioners of Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin.
For now, I want to caution people from outside of Pennsylvania that,
if you’re contemplating moving here, you would do better to just stay
put. Jim Potts, founder of Democracy Rising and advocate for hon-
est government in Pennsylvania, opined on a Pittsburgh radio station
that “Pennsylvania may be the most corrupt state in America.”
I agree with Potts. However, I would extend his opinion to include
most third world countries.
Consider the following before you plan a visit to Pennsylvania, or
worse yet, to move to this commonwealth: 1] the Cash for Kids
Scandal; 2] the Jerry Sandusky and Penn State scandal; 3] the
grand jury investigations into the rape and sodomizing of innocent
children in the Philadelphia Archdiocese; 4] the Tanya Kash case
involving a McKeesport School District security guard allegedly
holding a teenager captive for almost ten years; 5] Cardinal Don-
ald Wuerl’s proven triple cover-up of Wolk, Zula, and Pucci, by
which he ignored the Child Protective Services Act and was ac-
cused of having been uncooperative during the criminal investiga-
tion of the three priests he tried to conceal … followed by Wuerl
facing zero accountability for his evil commissions and equally
All of these cases allege police and government officials being all
too willing to delay or hamper investigations involving children in
harm’s way. In a Philadelphia archdiocesan case, a ten-year-old
boy was alleged to have been sodomized by his teacher in a park.
When the teacher had satisfied his barbaric cravings, the alleged-
ly victimized youth was forced to make his way home on his own,
bleeding from his rectum.
Pennsylvania is a pro-pedophile state, in my opinion. My opinion,
of course, comes from personal experience and a lot of investigat-
ing, done free of charge. So, you can either take my word for it or
risk your own children’s lives to prove me wrong. In Pennsylvania,
even adults were the victims of power abuse. Concerning this, you
can either take my word for it or else risk your own future to prove
Trick or Treat Bishop David Zubik
I sent this press release out in 2013 around Halloween. It’s time to repost. I met a woman who was friends with the victim who I have described in the press release. I’m hoping to interview her soon. She talked to the victim the night that Father John Wellinger drugged him. That’s right a witness is stepping forward to tell us what the victim went through the night that Father John Wellinger drugged him.
It’s a shame that Donald Wuerl, David Zubik and all the other Roman Coward clerics who covered up crimes in the Pittsburgh Diocese don’t simply come forward and tell the truth and really help survivors heal.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mike Ference
Pittsburgh, PA – October 29, 2013 — If ever there was cleric gone wild who should be dredged up on devil’s night, Father John Wellinger is that evil spirit. As an advocate for clergy sex abuse victims for almost a quarter of a century I’m convinced that the Pittsburgh Diocese concealed Wellinger’s criminal activities with the help of law enforcement authorities, the university and medical community, elected officials at all levels of government, legal community and of course plenty of hierarchy from the Roman Catholic Church.
How could this to happen? We now know that protecting predator priests, clerics and the institutional church trumps God’s most precious commodity – innocent children. It’s the standard method of operation in every diocese and in every country.
On Thursday, October 31, 2013, in downtown Pittsburgh on the Boulevard of the Allies in front of the Pittsburgh Diocesan headquarters I’ll pass out literature outlining who knew what, where, when and why about the devastation caused by one predator priest Father John Wellinger and how everything was covered up.
Here are some of the details.
Sometime in 1987, possibly March, while Anthony Bevilacqua was serving as bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese; Wellinger allegedly drugged and possibly raped and sodomized a University of Pittsburgh student. The alleged crime took place in the student’s apartment that was shared with his brother, also enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. According to the victim, who I interviewed, he was knocked out for hours. Awakening, he intuitively called 911. Sadly, that’s when his real nightmare began.
Running down the stairs and into the street to meet the Pittsburgh paramedics, the teenager would be whisked away to Presbyterian Hospital emergency room (now University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). According to the victim, he was admitted, but never examined by a doctor. Keep in mind this young man was given a drug that knocked him out, administered by a lay person with very bad intentions. Wellinger also provided alcohol, yet no doctor wanted to be bothered by this case.
Could it be that the call to 911, answered by Pittsburgh paramedics, was the first step in alerting Pittsburgh Diocesan officials that one of their own had harmed another, again? Would diocesan officials then alert hospital officials to avoid contact with the patient?
Or, is it more reasonable to assume that medical personnel, sworn to care for and help others in need, would just say no to a young man drugged and possibly raped and sodomized by a Catholic priest? I don’t think so. An emergency room doctor, spending so much money on medical school and with so much to lose, would never make that call.
Was this normal protocol during the Bevilacqua years as bishop when priest after priest was charged with molesting minors? Bevilacqua even welcomed known predator priests into the Pittsburgh Diocese, Father John P. Connor being one of them. It’s called passing the trash from one diocese to the next. This year I spoke to a victim of Connor from the north hills section of Pittsburgh. How many other victims of Connor, just like Wellinger, are still suffering.
We now know how badly the Bevilacqua regime treated children in the Philadelphia Archdiocese since two separate and distinguished district attorneys from Philadelphia had the courage to protect children over dysfunctional, super sex freaks. Is it more reasonable to think Bevilacqua would protect sexual perverts only on the eastern side of Pennsylvania or that his criminal behavior would be congruent and consistent across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?
Sadly, Allegheny County district attorneys have done more to protect video poker parlors than children abused by grown men in priestly garb. If I’m wrong, please let the current or a past district attorney of Allegheny County or, any elected official for that matter, stand and sing your praise.
According to the victim, Wellinger trailed him to the emergency room, the victim alerted the attending nurse on duty that he, Wellinger was the priest who drugged him. Still nothing was done. Security was not alerted, police were not called. The teenager would simply leave with his parents for a long ride home.
My interview with the victim was not the first time I was made aware of this event. As early as January of 1990, former Clairton Public Safety Director William Scully, a seasoned law enforcement officer, would sit down with my wife and me, in our own living room and tell us firsthand his knowledge of this alleged crime. Scully even provided me with details, notes and instructions to contact the victim’s parents to get all the facts.
There’s much more to this story, sadly, the victim’s mother was also traumatized by Wellinger. Just one more reason the crime and the priest were able to blackmail all parties concerned, so charges would never be made and Wellinger would never be held accountable.
Looks like this Trick or Treat season, Bishop David Zubik has two choices; fess up or continue to flip the bird to victims of ruthless, sexual predators.
Priest accused of molesting child in Elizabeth 50 years ago
Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 2:36 p.m.
Updated 21 hours ago
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh began informing parishioners of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor nearly 11 years after its leaders learned of the accusation.
“For a decade, church officials have disclosed abuse reports only when they’re forced to and have kept them secret as long as they possibly could,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “I strongly suspect the Pittsburgh Diocese realizes the secret is out so they have to act so they can seem like they’re being responsible.”
SNAP raised an alert in June that a former priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese, the Rev. John P. Carroll, was accused in the Archdiocese of Boston of sexually abusing a minor while he was at St. Michael Parish in Elizabeth between 1962 to 1963.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik announced on Sunday that he warned members of St. Michael and the other parishes where Carroll worked of the allegation against him. The diocese was responding because the Boston Archdiocese notified church officials on Aug. 5 that it had taken steps to dismiss him from the priesthood.
Asked why the diocese waited to send out letters about Carroll, the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman, said: “We’re talking about something that happened 11 years ago. It was off our radar screen.”
Lengwin said that the Boston Archdiocese first notified Pittsburgh diocese leaders on Dec. 9, 2003. Boston church officials are handling the investigation.
At the time that the diocese was informed, Lengwin said the church considered child sexual abuse as a “moral defect,” as it did with alcoholism, rather than a disease.
“You can’t say you made a mistake that you didn’t understand fully,” Lengwin said. “I would say we learned how to do things better.”
Former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl, now Archbishop of Washington, developed a no-tolerance policy here that was later adopted by Catholic bishops at their 2002 conference in Dallas.
About a year ago, the Pittsburgh diocese began a policy of informing all parishes where a priest accused of abuse worked.
In keeping with its own policies and that of Catholic bishops nationally, the Pittsburgh Diocese notified civil authorities of the allegation. Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said he could not comment until Monday.
“I urge anyone who has been abused by any person representing the church to notify civil authorities and to contact the diocese to obtain assistance with counseling to help with recovery from abuse,” Zubik wrote in a letter to Carroll’s former parishes.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, wrote in an email that Carroll has been restricted from ministry but would not elaborate.
Carroll worked in the Pittsburgh Diocese from 1962 to 1972, including his stint at St. Michael. He also worked at St. Isaac Jogues in Elrama, St. Margaret in Green Tree, St. Susanna in Penn Hills, St. Alphonsus in Springdale and St. Denis in Versailles, now called St. Patrick in McKeesport.
On Aug. 3, the diocese announced that Zubik had placed the Rev. John Fitzgerald, 66, the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Conway, on administrative leave pending investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
This year, the diocese disclosed that 22 victims had made complaints against nine Marianist brothers at the former North Catholic High School.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PA- Victims condemn Pittsburgh bishop for “11 yrs of secrecy”
For immediate release: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014
For 11 years, Pittsburgh Catholic officials hid the fact that Fr. James P. Carroll is a credibly accused child molester. Yesterday, they finally “came clean” about his crimes. But Pittsburgh church staff said nothing about their callous cover up.
We strongly suspect that Fr. Carroll has spent the past decade living among unsuspecting neighbors who see him as a charming, safe, “grandfatherly” figure. We hope he hasn’t assaulted more kids over these 11 years.
No matter how Catholic officials try to spin it, this is irresponsible and inexcusable. It’s a clear violation of the promises made by Catholic officials – in Pittsburgh and at the national level – to be “open” about clergy sex crimes. Even worse, Pittsburgh Catholic officials, by keeping silent about a potentially dangerous cleric, may have enabled him to hurt more kids.
Two months ago, we disclosed (at a news conference) that Fr. Carroll was a credibly accused child molester.
At that time, back in June, like they have done for years and still do, Pittsburgh Catholic officials said nothing.
Bishop David Zubik’s PR man claims that in 2003, he and his well-educated staff “considered child sexual abuse as a ‘moral defect,’ as it did with alcoholism, rather than a disease,” (according to the Tribune Review). That is insulting baloney.
In 2003, Zubik and other top Pittsburgh Catholic officials knew child sex abuse was a crime. They knew it was apt to be repeated. They knew that citizens have a duty to help police catch criminals. They knew that if they told the truth about Fr. Carroll, more victims might step forward and file charges and Fr. Carroll might be convicted and imprisoned. But they chose – for more than a decade – to stay silent and endanger kids.
Shame on every single current and former Pittsburgh diocesan staffer who knew about the allegations against Fr. Carroll and chose to protect him, not children.
And now, we beg every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Pittsburgh to call police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
SNAP Accuses Green Bay Diocese of Destroying Evidence
By Paul Srubas
December 22, 2010
A group that represents victims of clergy sex abuse has accused the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay of embarking on a policy to destroy potential evidence in clergy abuse cases.
“It’s an intentional, deliberate act of destroying what’s in the file,” said Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “This is a potential record of crimes committed against us, and criminal evidence, and it’s evidence of potential fraud, which is the concealment or transference of clerics” guilty of sexual abuse.
The diocese denied the accusations on Tuesday, saying it continues to be cooperative with victims of sex abuse cases but has been following a records management policy that has been in place for the last four years.
SNAP issued a press release on Tuesday accusing the diocese of destroying personnel records and other documents that would aid in the investigation of sexually abusive priests.
The group based its accusations on recent court testimony given by the Rev. James Doerfler, a top diocesan official. The group quoted Doerfler as saying former diocesan leader Bishop David Zubik issued orders in 2007 to destroy records pertaining to pedophile priests.
Doerfler said Zubik’s orders were based on the diocese’s new records-management policy, which went into effect at about the same time that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that victims of priest abuse can sue under fraud statutes outside the normal six-year statute of limitations, Isely said.
“What was wrong with the policy up to this point?” Isely asked, adding that the policy change clearly came into effect as the diocese rushed to protect itself from lawsuits under the new Supreme Court ruling.
Todd and Troy Merryfield of St. Paul have filed such a suit in Outagamie County Circuit Court. Now they are asking the judge in the case to issue an order forbidding further destruction of church records. Former parish priest John Patrick Feeney abused the Merryfield boys in 1978 when they were parishioners at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom. Feeney is serving a 15-year year prison term on sexual abuse convictions.
The Merryfields are suing the diocese for fraud, for allegedly failing to inform St. Nicholas church of Feeney’s past, including his church-ordered sexual abuse counseling.
Todd Merryfield stood Tuesday afternoon with representatives of SNAP in a press conference at the federal courthouse in Green Bay to condemn the diocese’s actions involving diocesan records.
Also with them was Sheboygan priest James Connell, who, as a member of the Milwaukee archdiocese’s sexual abuse review board, has condemned the Green Bay diocese’s new records-management policy.
Deacon Tim Reilly, the diocese’s director of administration, said SNAP’s accusations are wrong.
He said the diocese’s new policy calls for destruction of personnel records only in the cases of priests who have been dead for a year or more, and in no case are the records destroyed if they concern pending court cases.
The diocese’s new policy was enacted in 2006 — a year before the Supreme Court decision allowing fraud cases — after five years of study, Reilly said. The records retention policy is a 146-page document dealing with a whole gamut of records from all diocesan departments, not just personnel files of accused priests, Reilly said.