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Diocese settles suits over one-time St. Mary's priest

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Sioux City Diocese has settled five lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse by at least one former priest.

The settlement terms are confidential, said Sioux City attorney Scott Rhinehart, who represented two of the plaintiffs.

Former priest George McFadden, accused of molesting more than two dozen children since the 1950s, is involved in most of the lawsuits.

McFadden started his career at St. Mary's in Storm Lake. The allegations against him spring from stints serving other northwest Iowa parishes after leaving Storm Lake.

The plaintiffs said McFadden sexually abused them when they were in their early teens or younger. They also accused the diocese of covering up McFadden's behavior by transferring him from parish to parish each time a new allegation was made.

Not including the recent settlements, the diocese said it has paid more than $2.6 million to settle sexual abuse lawsuits and claims since 2004. Diocese officials could not immediately be reached for comment Monday on the latest settlements, which were reached late last month and in early January.

Two of the plaintiffs, who filed their lawsuits early last year, alleged that McFadden engaged in sex acts with them while McFadden was assigned to Immaculate Conception Church in Sioux City.

In the other cases, filed in fall 2004, the plaintiffs said McFadden sexually abused them from 1969-72 while he was at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Jefferson.

Another three lawsuits were filed last fall against McFadden and the diocese. It was unclear Monday whether any settlements had been reached in those cases.

In two of them, two men accused McFadden of sexual abusing them while he was assigned to the parish in Jefferson. The third man accuses McFadden of abusing him from 1971 to 1972.

McFadden, who is now in his 80s, lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. He worked in numerous parishes from the 1950s until his retirement in 1992.

After retiring, McFadden continued to hear confession and say Mass at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City. But in December 2005, the Vatican ordered McFadden to cease public ministry and have no contact with children. He also was ordered to live a life of prayer and penance.



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