Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
to President, USCCB
November 14, 2005
Bishop William Skylstad, President
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Dear Bishop Skylstad:
We are parents and siblings of murder victims Dan O'Connell and James
Ellison, who were shot and killed by Fr. Ryan Erickson of the Diocese
of Superior, Wisconsin. We write to you seeking justice, healing, and
prevention desperately hoping that these two innocent lives were not snuffed
out in vain.
As you must know, last month, a Wisconsin judge ruled that Fr. Erickson
shot and killed these two dear beloved men in February 2002. Fearful that
Fr. Erickson was molesting children, Dan approached him with these allegations.
In response, Fr. Erickson murdered him. When Dan's colleague, 22 year
old James Ellison, came into the room, the priest murdered him too. These
are not our beliefs; they are the findings of an unbiased judge following
a thorough three-and-a-half-year police probe and an impartial judicial
Last December, Erickson hanged himself from a fire escape at his Hurley,
Wisconsin church after being questioned twice by police about the murders
and after revealing information about the crimes that was not known by
anyone except police investigators.
Since then, evidence has emerged showing that church officials knew Fr.
Erickson had been accused at least twice of molestation, once a full six
years before he was ordained in 2000. And more allegations about Erickson's
sexual abuse and bizarre behavior, including his fixation with guns and
child porn, have surfaced in the past few weeks.
To protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded, we want Catholic officials
to set up a national registry of abusive clerics and help reform state
child sex abuse laws, by eliminating or extending the archaic and overly-restrictive
civil and criminal statues of limitations. We are also seeking a new,
independent discipline mechanism to punish seminary rectors who recommend
and religious superiors who ordain troubled seminarians. Additionally,
we would like to see full disclosure of all cases involving priests and
other church personnel who have molested kids.
To us, each of these requests seems relatively simple, straightforward
and long overdue.
Furthermore, we ask that you and your brother US bishops help us get a
face-to-face meeting with the Holy Father. Out of compassion for our families
and respect for our losses, we believe we are owed at least this much.
In your role as head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, we hope
you will intercede and do everything in your power to arrange an audience
for us with Pope Benedict. It is clear to us that the "reforms"
adopted by America's Catholic bishops in 2002 are simply not working.
Preventing clergy child molestation in the future will therefore require
greater involvement by the Holy Father in this crucial matter. Toward
that end, we feel compelled to try and share our painful experiences and
collective suggestions with him; so that others might be spared the kind
of tragic pain we have suffered and continue to suffer.
We hope to hear from you soon. Please contact our attorney, Jeff Anderson,
at 651-227-9990 or 612-817-8665, or at [email protected]
The Ellison family and the O'Connell family,
of those Abused by Priests