Isle Bishop Named in Suit

Disclosure is sought of priests nationwide identified as molesters.

(Honolulu Star-Bulletin) Honolulu Catholic Bishop Larry Silva is one of 178 American bishops named in a lawsuit that seeks disclosure of the names of 5,000 Catholic priests identified as child molesters, with the action taken against each one by their bishops.

The civil suit was filed in Wisconsin by the family of Dan O’Connell, whose investigation into sexual abuse by a parish priest in Hudson, Wis., allegedly led to O’Connell’s murder in February 2002.

Court papers were served on the Honolulu bishop recently, notifying him that he is a defendant in the lawsuit that initially named the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Tom O’Connell Jr., brother of the slain man.

The suit was filed in August in St. Croix County Circuit Court in Wisconsin. It does not seek monetary damages, but to have the court order the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to release the names of about 5,000 known sexual abusers.

A press release Wednesday from the family’s attorney, Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., announced that 26 new defendants had been added to the original filing, including Silva.

Silva has no comment on the lawsuit, said Honolulu diocese spokesman Patrick Downes.

Tom O’Connell said Wednesday in a telephone interview that the family vowed to “make something good” come from the killing of his brother. He and his parents have attempted to meet with leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to discuss their ideas about revealing predator priests and helping victims and the Catholic Church recover from the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

“We were refused. We have basically been ignored by the entire Conference of Bishops,” he said.

O’Connell said they seek publication of the names of about 5,000 “proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive priests in the United States” identified in a study commissioned by the Conference of Catholic Bishops after the sex abuse scandal began in 2002. The study, completed in February 2004 by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, found that children in dioceses across the United States had accused 4,400 priests of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002.

“Today we don’t know if they were released, are still practicing as priests, have become Boy Scout leaders, nothing,” O’Connell said.

Each Catholic bishop has autonomy to handle the complaints in his jurisdiction. In July, Silva withdrew the ministerial “faculties” of a Maui deacon who was convicted of sexual abuse. Silva’s predecessor, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, removed four priests from public ministry in 1993, and acted in 2002 to remove a Maui pastor, accused by two men in 20-year-old cases. In 2003 he sent a Molokai pastor back to the Philippines, where he faced a molestation accusation.

Dan O’Connell, 39, had been investigating a molestation accusation against a priest when he was shot to death in the family funeral home. His co-worker was also fatally shot. The priest committed suicide in December 2004 after being questioned by police.


Mary Adamski