Lawsuit Demands Catholic Church Name Sex Abusers

Reuters [Wisconsin]
August 8, 2006

Chicago (Reuters) - The family of a man murdered by a pedophile priest filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Roman Catholic church demanding it disclose the names of all of its U.S. clergy accused of sexual abuse.

The lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin's St. Croix County, where a judge last year ruled Dan O'Connell was murdered by Rev. Ryan Erickson. The civil suit calls for the disclosure of the names of all accused clergy in the U.S. church but seeks no monetary damages.

A St. Croix county judge ruled last October that Erickson, a 31-year-old parish priest in Hudson, Wisconsin, likely murdered funeral director O'Connell and his intern James Ellison out of fear that O'Connell was about to expose his past sexual abuse. Erickson hanged himself after being questioned by police.

The lawsuit said church authorities were aware of Erickson's violent past and erratic behavior.

"The suit asks the judge to compel disclosure of all the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused Catholic clergy," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who joined O'Connell's family in announcing the lawsuit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"Many of the predators are still out there in communities where no one has been warned about them," he said.

Since the clergy sex abuse scandal broke in 2002, roughly a dozen U.S. dioceses have started disclosing the identities of clergy found to have committed abuses. But Clohessy said the "lists have tended to be partial and given begrudgingly and belatedly."

The lawsuit names all 194 U.S. bishops as defendants, as well as the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

"The bishops do have in place a plan to protect children and young people, which is being implemented across the country," said conference spokesman Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, referring to the 2002 bishops' charter that set forth a "zero tolerance" policy involving abusive clergy.

"A suit like this hasn't been tried," said Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota lawyer bringing the case who has sued numerous individual priests on behalf of clients who were sexually abused.


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