October 11, 2005

Before retiring, bishop should disclose all abuse

Duluth News Tribune

Give the Catholic Diocese of Superior credit for following the rules. In explaining why church officials failed to list the name of Father Ryan Erickson -- who authorities say murdered two men to squelch a child sex allegation before taking his own life -- in a mandated audit of accused priests, a top aide to Bishop
Raphael Fliss said it was because they didn't have to.

Apparently, that's true. Though the Rev. Philip Heslin initially told the News Tribune on Wednesday he hadn't heard of a 1994 allegation against Erickson to include in a 2004 survey by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he elaborated the next day to say reporting the accusation wasn't required because Erickson was in seminary at the time. Bill Ryan, a spokesman for the bishops' group in Washington, confirms that, saying, "Neither of them (the diocese audit and a study of clergy abuse by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice) report on seminarians."

So Bishop Fliss and the Superior Diocese are off the hook. Even though Fliss acknowledges receiving and responding to an alert by a Wisconsin district attorney about the 1994 allegation, and even though the claim, while never corroborated and resulting in no criminal charges, was serious enough to subject Erickson to a battery of psychological tests over the next eight years, and even as Fliss begs forgiveness from the Catholic faithful of the diocese for "not doing more to find out what really happened" in the sordid life and death of Erickson, he had no obligation to tell the bishops or anyone about it.

Posted by kshaw at October 11, 2005 12:17 PM