Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vatican wins retrial in Merryfield case

A Wisconsin court agreed Wednesday with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay that the priest-sex-abuse suit brought by Todd and Troy Merryfield deserved to be retried based on the bias of one juror. Judge Nancy Krueger apologized to both parties for the delay and the expense each side must now incur, but said that "the overriding emphasis of this court must be on the integrity of the justice and jury system."

Todd Merryfield, center, Wednesday
Todd and Troy Merryfield were 12 and 14 in 1978 when they were molested by the Rev. John Feeney, who, the brothers claimed, had a history of sexual misconduct and yet was installed at St. Nicholas Church in Freedom and was falsely portrayed as safe even though the church knew he was a danger to children. The jury found for the plaintiffs and awarded them $700,000. The brothers did not seek punitive damages, which might have significantly increased the award. They said the truth was more important than the money.

The news story is more a regurgitation of earlier facts than anything else. Among the questions left hanging in my mind were:

1. When is the new trial likely to be held?
2. In light of the expenses incurred by the Merryfield brothers, are they considering amending their suit to include both court costs AND punitive damages?
3. If the Vatican (or Roman Catholic diocese if you insist) decides to contest such cases as a means of deterring future similar actions, is it not wiser to play the kind of hardball the Vatican prefers and make it clear through punitive damages that victims will not be deterred? I don't know the legal constraints or ramifications of this question.

One positive aspect of this probably-painful and definitely-costly delay is the fact that if the Merryfield brothers are concerned with bringing the truth to light, they are being given a second chance to do precisely that ... and the Vatican is putting itself in the position of being seen as manipulative, uncaring and wrong all over again.

The newspaper in which the article appears, the Post Crescent, requires a Facebook log-in instead of offering a wider array of options for comments. I refuse to associate with the phoney-baloney antics of Facebook. 


  1. The new trial will likely be held in the Spring of 2013. There is another trial scheduled in Las Vegas against the Green Bay Diocese. This trial involves the same priest that molested my brother and me. After we went to the police, the bishop allowed the priest to preach in the Las Vegas Diocese with his good blessing. The priest then molested another young boy. When my brother and I filed our current suit...yes, the one going to trial again, this young man saw the story and realized that the Green Bay Diocese allowed a known pedophile to act again on him. Now, this is why we went public in the first place. We dropped the punitive damages because of circumstances, including that we weren't there for the money. With a new trial, we shall see what happens. Time will tell. I'm certain of one thing, though, that the diocese and the greater church will not come clean and will deny culpability even with another verdict against them. They are immoral and unethical....bankrupt!

  2. Todd (if I've got it right) -- Please do not lose heart. The number of people benefiting from your efforts cannot be counted, whether they speak up or not. Your courage supports and nourishes a great many who have lived in helpless horror for too long. They are saying thank you to you and your brother... believe it!

    Please feel free to be in touch for whatever reason. I'm just an old, fat Zen Buddhist who is interested in spiritual endeavor, but I am sympathetic to the uphill fight against a Vatican whose corruptions are too much to stomach ... plus I have been a newspaper reporter in my time and know how to keep my mouth shut. (

    Best wishes and thanks,