Ex-Greenville Priest Sues Green Bay Diocese
Rev. Zickert Says He Was Forced to Resign over False Allegations
By Cheryl Sherry
July 15, 2006
Appleton — A priest who says he was forced to resign as pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Greenville in 2004 is suing the Diocese of Green Bay.
A motion hearing is set Aug. 30 before Outagamie County Circuit Judge John Des Jardins on the lawsuit filed in April by the Rev. John Zickert of Appleton.
In the suit, Zickert, a Capuchin Franciscan priest, alleges the diocese and Bishop David Zubik, as well as 13 other defendants, spread false allegations and rumors regarding financial mismanagement and sexual impropriety that led to his wrongful termination Aug. 9, 2004.
The allegations also have kept him from gaining employment as a parish priest elsewhere, Zickert said.
"The bottom line is his grievances have gone unanswered by the powers that be and by the individuals involved, and therefore he felt compelled to take this action and clear his name and to address other issues involved," said William Grogan, the attorney representing Zickert.
"It is a very complex situation with multiple sets of laws and rules that come into play."
According to a statement from the diocese, Zickert is a religious order priest, not a diocesan priest, and is not authorized to act as a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay. The diocese's policy is to refrain from commenting on matters in litigation.
Zubik and the Very Rev. Daniel Anholzer, major superior of the Capuchin Province of Detroit, asked the 62-year-old to resign in 2004, causing a rift among members of St. Mary's. A number of parishioners had raised concerns about Zickert's management style and sometimes-unorthodox approach to Catholic liturgy. At the time, Zubik said Zickert had personal issues to work out, though Zubik said he knew of no misconduct on Zickert's part.
Also included in the suit is former St. Mary's principal Steven Zangl, Oshkosh; Sister Lynn Marie Simonich, Spring Green; Kathy Johnson, Laureen Miller, Angie Fassbender and Grace Fiestedt, all of Greenville; Kathy Jahns and Msgr. John Dewane, both of Appleton; Wanda Winterfeldt and Donna Dorn, both of Hortonville; Sister Mary Bride Grubbs, Wrightstown; and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau, Green Bay.
None of the people named in the lawsuit have submitted depositions, Grogan said.
Zickert seeks punitive damages, court costs and attorney's fees on seven actions, including interference with his employment because of false allegations and inability to be reinstated or obtain other employment as a parish priest; defamation of character; invasion of privacy in regards to intercepted e-mails from his computer at St. Mary's, as well as public dissemination of the results of a confidential psychological evaluation done at St. Michael Clinic in St. Louis; emotional distress; age discrimination; breach of contract under canon, state and federal law; and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Cheryl Sherry can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 249, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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