weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Priest abuse lawsuit filed in LV

A Southern Nevada man filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas on Tuesday, saying he was sexually molested by a priest more than 20 years ago.

The man, named only as John Doe 119, alleges the Rev. John Patrick Feeney fondled him after they attended a University of Nevada, Las Vegas football game in 1984.

At the time Feeney was pastor at St. Francis de Sales church near Washington Avenue and Decatur Boulevard.

The lawsuit filed in District Court also names the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay as a defendant, claiming it let Feeney transfer to Las Vegas without revealing a history of sexual abuse allegations against him.

Feeney, 81, was convicted in 2004 of molesting two brothers in 1978 in Wisconsin and is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

John Doe 119 came forward after learning of a news conference two weeks ago in Las Vegas by Survivors of those Abused by Priests, said Barbara Blaine, the group’s president.

“We suspected there were victims in Las Vegas, and this confirmed it,” Blaine said.

Feeney worked at St. Francis de Sales from September 1984 to June 1985.

In his lawsuit, John Doe 119 alleges Feeney befriended him and three other friends, taking them to football games and swimming with them.

After one of the games, Feeney was at the 13-year-old boy’s house when he put his arm around the youngster, reached into his shorts and fondled the boy’s genitals, the lawsuit states.

Several weeks later, St. Francis de Sales School Monsignor Elwood LaVoy learned that the boy told his friends that Feeney was gay. LaVoy called the boy into his office, told him he should be “ashamed of himself,” and called a conference with the boy’s father, the lawsuit states.

Feeney remained at the church through the end of the school year.

“He shouldn’t have made it out like the kid did something wrong,” Blaine said of LaVoy. “He (the alleged victim) had to live with that shame his entire life.”

Before transferring to Las Vegas, Feeney worked at 18 churches throughout Wisconsin during a 31-year period, the lawsuit states.

His time in Wisconsin was rife with complaints and accusations of sexual misconduct, it alleges.

In fall 1983, Green Bay Bishop Aloysius Wycislo wrote Feeney and told him he had until the end of the year to find another diocese to take him or enter a treatment center to “assist you with your problems,” according to the lawsuit.

Wycislo’s letter also says state prosecutors promised not to prosecute Feeney if he sought treatment, the lawsuit states.

“I am capable of forgetting about all this and writing a good letter of recommendation for you to a new Bishop, and I hope and pray you will find one,” the letter said, according to the lawsuit.

In a prepared statement, the Green Bay diocese said it had not been served with the lawsuit, but if it were, it would continue to cooperate with civil authorities. “As always, we will continue to listen to victims and train our staff and volunteers on how to create and maintain safe environments,” the statement said.

Officials from the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas were unavailable for comment Tuesday, said Rachel Wilkinson of Rogich Communications.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0281.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Biden signs debt ceiling bill

President Joe Biden signed legislation on Saturday that lifts the nation’s debt ceiling, averting an unprecedented default on the federal government’s debt.