Suit Targets Bishops on Sex Claims

Kevin Flynn, Rocky Mountain News

The family of a Wisconsin man murdered after he planned to confront a Roman Catholic priest about child molestation has sued 177 of the nation’s Catholic bishops to force public disclosure of accused priests.

The first bishop in Colorado to be served with the summons is Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Colorado Springs Diocese.

The suit asks that church officials be ordered to disclose the names and locations of all priests who had ever been accused of molesting children.

Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney who has pursued numerous court cases against church officials and priests accused of sexual abuse of children, said other bishops, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo, would also be served.

Anderson represents the family of Dan O’Connell, a Hudson, Wis., funeral director killed, along with one of his workers, in February 2002. A state court later found that the Rev. Ryan Erickson probably committed the crime.

O’Connell had planned a meeting with Erickson to confront him about claims he had been involved inappropriately with children in the parish. In December 2004, Erickson committed suicide shortly after he was questioned by police detectives about the crime.

Martin Nussbaum, an attorney for the Colorado Springs Diocese, said Anderson’s suit is a publicity stunt that can go nowhere because it was filed in a Wisconsin state court that has no jurisdiction over U.S. bishops outside that state.

“There is no law that supports hauling every bishop in the country into a Wisconsin state court,” Nussbaum said. He also said the court can’t force public disclosure of church personnel files.

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