Twomurders in St. Croix County, Wis., have led to all U.S. bishops beingserved and named as defendants in a civil child sex abuse lawsuit.
ArchbishopJoseph Naumann, head of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, andBishop Paul Coakley, head of the Salina Catholic Diocese, are includedin the suit.
Filedin Wisconsin in August, the suit seeks no money but asks a state judgeto force Catholic bishops nationwide to disclose the names of about5,000 "proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive priests in theU.S."
Thesuit is brought by the family of Dan O'Connell, a Wisconsin man whodied 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 ofSuperior in Wisconsin may have shot and killed O'Connell and Ellison.
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.
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