Two murders in St. Croix County, Wis., have led to all U.S. bishops being served and named as defendants in a civil child sex abuse lawsuit.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, head of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and Bishop Paul Coakley, head of the Salina Catholic Diocese, are included in the suit.
Filed in Wisconsin in August, the suit seeks no money but asks a state judgeto force Catholic bishops nationwide to disclose the names of ,000 "proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive priests in theU.S."
The suit is brought by the family of Dan O'Connell, a Wisconsin man who died of a gunshot wound in February 2002 with co-worker James Ellison,also shot to death, at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson, Wis.
Ajudge ruled that evidence showed Father Ryan Erickson of the Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin may have shot and killed O'Connell and E
Bishop lists priests accused of sexually abusing minors
In a list accompanying a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Wilmington in the Nov.16 Dialog, official newspaper of Diocese of Wilmington, the bishop also includes the names of two living priests from other dioceses who ministered here and were accused of sexual abuse elsewhere.
The list does not include when or where the abuse occurred or how many minors were involved.
Of the 20 priests listed, the names of 10 had previously been released publicly, either by the diocese or by media outlets, as The Dialog went to press. The list does not include names of any accusedreligious-order priests who worked in the diocese.In his letter, Bishop Saltarelli says he is disclosing the names after“extensive consultation” with the Diocesan Review Board, the largelylay panel formed to comply with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People issued in 2002.
The bishop cites the recent arrest in Syracuse, N.Y., of Francis G.DeLuca, a priest who formerly served in this diocese, as one reason he decided to publish the names. DeLuca, 77, was arrested last month andcharged with sexually abusing a Syracuse boy, now 18, for several years from when the boy was 12 or 13 until he was 17. DeLuca was removed frompublic ministry in 1993 and was allowed to retire to Syracuse, hishometown. The diocese said Oct. 26 that it has asked the Vatican topermanently remove DeLuca from the priesthood, a process known aslaicization.
“I am deeply troubled, and profoundly regret, that a priest of thisdiocese, removed from ministry so many years ago, has once againsexually abused a minor,” the bishop writes. “I am deeply sorry forthis, and apologize to the victim and his family for their suffering.”By disclosing the names and locations of other living priests withsubstantiated allegations against them, the bishop adds, “we perhaps insome way may help prevent or deter any further incidents.”
His second reason for releasing the names, the bishop writes, “is tocontinue the efforts of our diocese to encourage victims of clericalsexual abuse to come forward and seek help. The first obligation of thechurch is to assist in the healing of these victims.”
Information about the eight living diocesan priests on the list waspreviously disclosed to law enforcement agencies in Delaware andMaryland, “depending on where the alleged abuse occurred,” the bishopwrites. “All of these living priests were removed from ministry between1985-2003, and the names of all but two of them were previouslydisclosed publicly by the diocese or others.”
The diocese also previously informed civil authorities in Delaware orMaryland of the allegations against all of the deceased priests.
Last year the diocese reported that it had received credible orsubstantiated allegations involving 20 diocesan priests. The bishopsaid he is not releasing the names of two of those priests, bothdeceased, because “although the allegation against each of thesepriests was credible, in the judgment of the Diocesan Review Boardneither of these complaints has yet been substantiated.”
The bishop says “it is with some hesitancy” that he is disclosing thenames of the deceased priests. “The priests can no longer harm anyone,and several of them died before they were accused. I regret any furthersuffering that their victims may endure as a result of this disclosureand any sorrow or embarrassment that their families and friends mayexperience.” By identifying those priests, the bishop writes,“[perhaps] some of their victims may be motivated to seek help.”
In his letter the bishop reports that the diocese spent $112,697 insettlements, victims’ assistance and legal fees between October 2005and October 2006.
Since the U.S. bishops addressed the clergy sex-abuse scandal at ameeting in Dallas in 2002, only a handful of U.S. dioceses havereleased the names of priests and other church workers charged withsexual abuse or found to have had credible accusations against them.
Since the bishops formulated the Charter for the Protection of Childrenand Young People four years ago, four annual audits have found theDiocese of Wilmington to be in full compliance with the charter.
In his letter, Bishop Saltarelli discusses the steps the diocese hastaken to protect children, including: background checks of allemployees and volunteers who have regular contact with minors;strengthened standards of ethical behavior for church personnel andvolunteers; implementation of a Safe Environments programs withtraining of parish, school and other institutional staff in recognizingand preventing child abuse.
“The abuse of children by priests and other clergy is shocking andreprehensible,” Bishop Saltarelli writes. “Victims and their familieshave suffered devastating harm. The faithful of the Church and theoverwhelming number of good priests who serve them also have sufferedthrough this crisis. I reaffirm my commitment to deal effectively andappropriately with complaints of sexual abuse of minors by priests,deacons and other Church personnel. I recommit myself to care for theemotional, pastoral and spiritual well-being of those who havesuffered, and to take all appropriate steps to prevent any furtherabuse of children and young people.”
O'Connell may have confronted Erickson with suspicions of child molestations before being murdered.
Erickson committed suicide after police questioned him about the murders.
TheO'Connell family claims church officials knew Erickson had been twiceaccused of molesting boys six years before his ordainment as a priestin 2000.
The O'Connell family also claims the church knew Erickson had an interest in guns and child pornography.
Thelawsuit asks the Catholic church to set up a national registry ofabusive clerics and help reform state child sex abuse laws. The suitalso seeks to establish a method to discipline bishops who ordainpriests who may molest.
"Certainly,the bishops deeply sympathize with the families for the tragedy thathas occurred," Kansas Archdiocese Communica-tions Director CarrollMacke said. "Representatives of the United States Conference ofCatholic Bishops have met with the families in Washington and inWisconsin and have been in correspondence with them. The bishops havein place a comprehensive plan to protect children and young peoplewhich is being implemented throughout the United States."
Macke said the archdiocese has been proactive in protecting children.
"There has been a Child Protection Policy in place since 1991," he said. "It is reviewed and updated from time to time."
Aprogram about how to identify warning signs of sexual misconduct andhow to create a safe environment for children has been in place since2003, Macke said, and more than 60,000 adults have completed thetraining. Background checks are also conducted on volunteers andemployees, he said.
Accordingto the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site, effortsto combat clergy sexual abuse of minors in the church have been ongoingsince 1982.
"Itis mandated that employees and volunteers be made aware of thesestandards and that those who are in contact with children receivecontinuing education about these matters," Macke said.
TheO'Connell family has created a Web site,www.crusadeagainstclergyabuse.com, and states that documented abuseproblems in the Catholic church have existed since the 1950s and littlehas been done to address the issue.
for a listing of alternate locations.