11.22.2006

A huge victory for my friends...

I had a massage today. And it was good.

And I got some very good news today about a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Well, the news came down to me a couple of days ago but the newspaper reported it today and while I normally don't read the newspaper, I caught sight of the headline as the newspaper was sitting on the chair of the coffee shop and I got to read the details and clear up some of my confusion. I haven't reported anything about this story for a very long time. I'll provide a few links here to past stories if I can find anything that hasn't been archived off or that you have to pay to get the information. And I'll provide a link to my dear friends' website, too.

The link to the news article isn't working so well for me because I've been to the paper a few too many times today. heh. So here is the article in all it's beautiful glory with the reporter credited fully!



O'Connells' lawsuit gets response
Wilmington, Del., diocese agrees to identify priests who abused minors

BY KEVIN HARTER
Pioneer Press

The family of a slain Hudson, Wis., funeral home director has won its first legal battle with U.S. Catholic bishops to get the names of clergy accused of child molestation.

The Diocese of Wilmington, Del., one of 194 Catholic dioceses named in lawsuits filed across the country by the family in August, has agreed to release the names of 20 priests who have admitted sexually abusing minors or been found to have abused them.

"The suit (against the Wilmington Diocese) will be dismissed. They have come clean," Jeff Anderson, the family's St. Paul-based attorney, said Tuesday. The lawsuits are still pending in area dioceses, including Superior and La Crosse, and the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The names and locations of some 5,000 alleged child molesters — not money — are what the family of Dan O'Connell, who authorities say was killed by a Hudson priest in 2002, wanted when they filed the unprecedented lawsuits against the bishops.

The O'Connells filed suit after they became frustrated with what they saw as inaction by the Catholic Church to live up to its recent reforms and ensure that pedophiles can no longer enter or stay in the priesthood.

"The attitude and stubbornness of some of these bishops towards us is unbelievable," said Dan's brother Tom O'Connell Jr. "It makes you wonder what kind of men, what kind of religious men, they are. But it can be done. And one bishop has done it and there is now no excuse for the rest of them."

According to the lawsuit against every member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "The bishops and the USCCB have established a policy of harboring and protecting suspected child molesting agents, thereby endangering numerous children throughout the United States."

The lawsuits seek their names and locations so they can be publicized, which the O'Connells hope will help prevent clergy sex abuse. The Diocese of Wilmington published the names of the 20 priests in the Nov. 16 issue of its diocesan newspaper.

The O'Connells, in a letter sent Tuesday to Wilmington Bishop Michael Saltarelli, thanked him and called for more bishops to comply.

"We are glad that you see the value in letting the public know about these dangerous men. We hope that other bishops will follow your example and release names within their own dioceses," said the letter, signed by Dan O'Connell's parents, two brothers and sister.

The Diocese of Wilmington is home to about 220,000 Catholics and includes the state of Delaware and nine counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The O'Connell lawsuit came at a time when the Wilmington diocese was already under pressure from local parishioners to address clergy abuse.

In addition to making the names public, Bishop Saltarelli asked Pope Benedict XVI to remove each of the men from the priesthood, which would also end their pensions and other benefits.

A spokesman for the diocese said Tuesday he had not received the O'Connell letter and declined to comment. Over the weekend, Saltarelli issued a letter, which was published in the diocesan newspaper, addressing the issue and the release of the names.

"The first obligation of the church is to assist in the healing of victims," Saltarelli wrote. "The abuse of children by priests and other clergy is shocking and reprehensible. Victims and their families have suffered devastating harm. The faithful of the church, and the overwhelming number of good priests who serve them, also have suffered through this crisis. …"

Saltarelli released the names, he wrote, to help those hurt and prevent others from being victimized.

Dan O'Connell, 39, and University of Minnesota mortuary science intern James Ellison, 22, were shot to death Feb. 5, 2002, at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson.

In October 2005, a St. Croix County judge ruled there was overwhelming probable cause that the Rev. Ryan Erickson of Hudson's St. Patrick's Catholic Church killed them after O'Connell, a parishioner, confronted Erickson with evidence the priest had been sexually abusing boys. Erickson, 31, later committed suicide.

For the last year, the O'Connells, with the support of the Ellisons, have sought answers, accountability and action from bishops.

"The vows taken in priesthood should reflect doing what is right to protect children and support victims," Tom O'Connell Jr. said.

"We hope the Wilmington bishop is a model for others. … The pope recently said the church wanted to be aggressive with child molesters. Well, let's do it then."

Kevin Harter can be reached at kharter@pioneerpress.com or 800-950-9080, ext. 2149.


These people are some of the most precious people on earth. They have hearts bigger than you can imagine for what they have been through. Read their story. Support them in their efforts. And cheer their victories.

When you finish reading about it? I'd love to hear your opinions. Truly. Let me know what you think. Let me hear your cheering and happiness. Because really, how big is this news? I'm grinning from ear to ear. Nobody is above the law. Or outside of it. Nobody.

Thank you.

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