Pennsylvania's Catholic community is reeling in the wake of a federal grand jury report documenting widespread sexual abuse. The grand jury found substantial evidence of child sexual abuse within Pennsylvania's Catholic Church, identifying over 1,000 victims with credible sexual abuse complaints against more than 300 priests.
Beyond this staggering number of individual sex abuse claims, the grand jury's report lays bare a Church culture that systematically protected dangerous sexual predators. Dozens, if not hundreds, of pedophile priests, were allowed to continue serving in the ministry long after abuse complaints had been filed against them. Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro has labeled the Church's actions an "organized criminal enterprise."
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Among the 300 named priests who have been accused of child sexual abuse, Father Francis Feret is not listed, but the priest has a long and troubling history of child sexual abuse complaints.
Father Feret served as a counselor at Cardinal Dougherty High School between 1967 and 1978. During this period, the priest lived at St. Timothy's and served as the school's choir director. He was transferred, becoming chaplain for the Provincial House of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Feret then became pastor of St. Adalbert in Port Richmond until 2011, when the priest was put on leave by Cardinal Justin Rigali. He was ordained in 1962.
Feret was named as the defendant in a 2012 lawsuit filed by a former middle-school choir boy, Andy Druding, who agreed to release his name to the press, the Northeast Times reports. In his lawsuit, Druding accused Monsignor Feret of repeatedly raping him in the early 1970s.
Feret served as the choir director at St. Timothy's Catholic School in Mayfair, Northeast Philadelphia, when he met the 9-year-old Druding. In a press conference, Druding stood trembling and flushed to read his statement:
"you took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God's messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I've never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers' faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day."
In addition to Father Feret, the suit named Cardinal Justin Rigali, who served as the eighth Archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn as co-defendants. Lynn handled abuse complaints as the Archdiocese's secretary of clergy between 1992 and 2004. He was convicted of endangering children in 2012, the first clergy member in history to be convicted for concealing sexual abuse reports.
While the Philadelphia Archdiocese declined to comment on individual cases at the time, Catholic leaders wrote in a statement, "we believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse." In light of the Pennsylvania grand jury's recent report, it appears that the Archdiocese believes that "the best mechanism" for handling sexual abuse complaints is to conceal them and protect dangerous sexual predators.
Father Feret no longer serves in the ministry. He was found "unsuitable" for the profession in 2012 by Archbishop Chaput, according to NBC10. In a report on the matter, Archdiocese officials said Feret, then 75, had been removed from the ministry due to "boundary violations." He was cited for violating the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries and let go.
According to the new grand jury report, this is common practice in the Catholic Church. Official reports on pedophile priests almost never cite "rape" or "sexual abuse"; euphemisms like "boundary issues" or "behavior problems" are used instead. This is one of the many ways in which Church leaders seek to conceal sexual abuse complaints and protect sexual predators from justice.
It is believed that Father Feret may have left additional victims in his wake. The priest was disbarred from the ministry after a 14-month investigation into his misconduct by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Andy Druding's case was not considered during the investigation; we can only imagine that the Archdiocese's decision was based on other claims of sexual abuse.
Were you or a loved one abused by Father Francis Feret? You are not alone. Our dedicated sexual abuse attorneys have helped countless survivors step forward, providing compassionate guidance and aggressive legal advocacy.
We believe you. If you or a loved one were abused, you may be entitled to pursue justice by filing a private lawsuit.
As we speak, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a legislative measure that would allow survivors with historical claims to step forward and seek compensation again. This two-year "window of justice" may be opening very soon. It would allow survivors who were abused during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to file new claims against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A second shot at justice may be on the way. Don't miss your chance. Sexual abuse can raise a storm of powerful emotions, from pain and grief to shame and embarrassment. We understand. Just know that this was not your fault. You did nothing to deserve what happened to you.
Contact our experienced Pennsylvania sexual abuse law office today to discuss your legal options in a free consultation. You can find more information on your rights at cost and no obligation.