Wyndmere Priest Currently on Administrative Leave Received Prior Training for Boundary Issues
Goering also stated many people in the Wyndmere and Walhalla parishes have spoken out in support of Father Feltman
RICHLAND COUNTY, ND — The priest of a Wyndmere parish, who is currently on administrative leave after he was accused of “inappropriate” contact with children, received training on boundaries while he was at a former parish in Walhalla.
Investigation documents obtained by KVRR stated Monsignor Joseph Goering of the Fargo Diocese told Richland County and BCI officials that Father Thomas Feltman had been observed by someone during a parish activity “wrestling with older children” and “tickling them.”
Goering told investigators Feltman was talked to by officials with the Diocese and trained on proper boundaries and on being careful during interactions with people.
Goering also stated many people in the Wyndmere and Walhalla parishes have spoken out in support of Father Feltman, saying Feltman is a kind and thoughtful person who hugs people and they have a “hard time believing he would do anything to hurt anyone.”
Some of the people who pledge their support have administrative duties at the parish, or have been attending Mass there for more than 40 years.
They also said Feltman is involved with adult and youth activities hosted by the church and that they do not feel uncomfortable leaving their children with him.
Some describe the priest as “socially awkward” who is abrupt at times, but they have not seen him display inappropriate behavior with adults or children.
Others say they feel Father Feltman is being targeted because he replaced a long-time priest at the parish and the two have different ideas as to how the parish should be run.
Feltman has been with St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Wyndmere since 2015 and with the Fargo Diocese since 2001.
He has also been the parish priest of St. Arnold’s Church in Milnor.
Father Andrew Jasinski has been filling in for the parishes while the Diocese’s internal investigation into Father Feltman continues.
Attorneys declined to press charges against him, saying while the actions of Feltman were “socially unacceptable”, there is no evidence it was sexual or malicious in nature.
In that complaint, Richland County investigators said they spoke with an alleged victim, who said Father Feltman had placed his hand under the person’s shirt, “touching the breast area.”
Another alleged victim stated Feltman “would try and put his hands around in a hugging attempt” and try to get under the person’s shirt and that it happened more than once.
However, one of the alleged victim’s family members told investigators that they did not think Father Feltman’s actions were “malicious” and that maybe he had done it “unintentionally.”
Investigators said they were also told in interviews about alleged victims that “We were of the opinion that he’s just not aware of how inappropriate, what it is that he’s doing.”