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ROCKFORD - The Catholic Diocese of Rockford said Friday that a now deceased priest accused of abusing a teen in 1969 never was under the diocese's direction.

The Rev. Theodore Feely was a member of the Franciscan order and did not work for the diocese, spokesman Owen Phelps said in a statement. Diocese officials first learned of abuse allegations against Feely four years ago, Phelps said.

Feely died in 1991.

Both the diocese and the Chicago-based Conventual Franciscans of St. Bonaventure Province were named in the lawsuit filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court Thursday by Donald Bondick of Rockford.

Bondick accuses Feely of raping him in 1969 when he was 13. His lawsuit seeks more than $50,000.

At a news conference, Bondick said Feely worked with young people and youth sports at his family's church, St. Anthony of Padua in Rockford. He also was a friend of the family who watched Chicago Bears games with Bondick's father at the family's home.

The Rockford diocese had declined comment on the lawsuit Thursday. In its statement Friday, the diocese said all the charges against it in the lawsuit are false.

The diocese said when it learned of abuse allegations against Feely in 2002, it immediately notified officials of Feely's order, who notified parishioners at Saint Anthony. Members of the church were told in June 2002 that two men had made allegations of abuse against Feely.

"Sexual abuse of minors is a grave sin and heinous crime," the statement read. "Victims should be comforted and assisted in their efforts to achieve healing, perpetrators should be severely punished and the public should be protected from them."

An official with the Franciscans said the order might have a statement to make about the case next week.


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