More than one potential victim of priest's alleged 'inappropriate activities' with youths, investigator says
FARGO — The Richland County Sheriff's Department says it's investigating a Catholic priest of the Fargo Diocese after reports of "inappropriate activities" with youths in his parishes.
Investigator Josh Beto said there is "more than one" potential victim in the case and that he's fielded several calls from the public since the news about Father Thomas Feltman broke over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Beto said anyone who has information or concerns can call the Fargo Diocese or sheriff's office, but added, "We would also like them to contact us."
The diocese announced on Saturday, May 27, that it had put Feltman on paid administrative leave after he told church officials about concerns brought to him regarding his interaction with youth.
Feltman is 48 years old and from the Minto, N.D., area, according to the diocese.
Most recently, he was pastor of St. John the Baptist's Catholic Church in Wyndmere, N.D., and St. Arnold's Catholic Church in Milnor, N.D.
Diocesan spokesman Paul Braun said after Feltman self-reported the concerns, the diocese reported them to Richland County Social Services for review. The sheriff's office then became involved.
Patrick Wall is a former priest and now advocate at Jeff Anderson and Associates, a Twin Cities law firm that's made a name for itself representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
Wall said he finds it "odd" that a priest would self-report. He said it could be that Feltman is naive and doesn't understand what that triggers.
"Or he's a guy who's very equipped and figures he's going to get in front of this," Wall said.
Either way, Wall called it a positive step that Feltman was placed on leave while the claims are investigated.
Braun said Feltman won't be performing any priestly duties and won't be living on diocesan property during that time.
Feltman's photo remains on the Fargo Diocese website. Messages from The Forum to his diocese email address have not been returned.
Bishop John Folda told members of the Milnor and Wyndmere parishes on Saturday that it was the previous week when Feltman told the diocese of the concerns about his dealings with youth.
"I want to assure you that the safety of our children and families is — and will remain — a priority for our Church," the bishop said in a statement released Saturday.
Braun said the announcement to the news media was made just a few minutes after it was announced to the parishes. "We wanted to give them an opportunity to hear it from us, not through the media," he said.
The diocese has said Father Andrew Jasinski will serve as the temporary administrator of the Milnor and Wyndmere parishes.
Father Thomas Feltman
Ordained in Fargo Diocese in 2001
2001-2003 Holy Cross, West Fargo, Parochial Vicar (associate pastor)
2003-2004 St. Michael's, Grand Forks
2004-2005 Churches in Cayuga, Milnor, Forman and Cogswell
2005-2010 Churches in Ashley, Zeeland and Wishek
2010-2012 Nativity, Fargo, Parochial Vicar
2012-2013 Lived at Holy Family, Grand Forks, while a hospital chaplain
2013-2015 Churches in Neche and Walhalla
2015-2017 Churches in Wyndmere and Milnor