APPLETON – Two brothers abused by a former priest with the Green Bay Diocese testified in their civil trial Wednesday.
Todd and Troy Merryfield are suing the diocese for fraud.
They claim the diocese knew, before they were abused, that former priest John Feeney had a history of inappropriate sexual contact with children.
There was plenty of emotion shown by both brothers on the stand Wednesday as they told the jury about what happened to them at the hands of John Feeney in 1978 and how it has changed their lives still to this day.
“He lifted up my pajama shirt, started rubbing my chest,” said Troy Merryfield.
Troy and his brother Todd each took the stand, recounting the night then Father John Feeney molested them in their bedrooms. The brothers described how the incident still haunts them.
“I’ve spent all those years keeping this buried, I didn’t want anyone to know,” said Todd Merryfield.
The Merryfields testified it was a 2002 phone call from a detective investigating allegations against John Feeney that brought the memories back to the surface.
“When that phone call came through it wasn’t just picking at a scab, it was ripping a wound right open,” said Todd.
“This is not enjoyable, it tears families apart,” said Troy.
Todd described how the abuse eventually led to a divorce from his wife, while Troy testified he has had bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide.
“I didn’t protect my brother, I’m the oldest brother, that’s my job and I failed.” said Todd.
Both Merryfields and their mother Sharon testified the family was devout in its Catholic faith before the Feeney incident. The brothers say they no longer attend church.
The attorney for the diocese asked only a few clarification questions on cross examination. Information for its argument the diocese had no idea Feeney had a history of inappropriate contact with children.