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Diocese of Superior statement on the late Rev. Ryan Erickson

Diocese of Superior statement on the late Rev. Ryan Erickson

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Superior realeased the following statements to pastors and news media in response to questions about what it knew of the Rev. Ryan Erickson:

1. Did the Diocese of Superior require a psychological evaluation of Father Ryan Erickson before he was admitted to the seminary?

As is standard practice for anyone who enters the seminary, an initial psychological evaluation had been performed in July 1992. From this initial psychological screening, the diocese received a recommendation from the psychologist that Erickson was "problem free, appeared healthy, psychologically stable and would make an outstanding priest." Accordingly, he was recommended at that time for seminary training to the priesthood.

2. When did the diocese first learn of any allegations of Erickson's sexual misconduct?

In March of 1994, an investigator from the Vilas County district attorney's office phoned the bishop and the vocation director of the Diocese of Superior. The district attorney's office was in the process of conducting an investigation concerning allegations against Erickson of improper sexual behavior some years prior to 1994.

3. How did the diocese respond to these allegations?

Immediately upon notification of the alleged complaint by the district attorney's investigator, the vocation director informed the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., and Erickson that the allegations existed. The rector of the seminary immediately removed Erickson from all apostolic work required by his seminary program while this allegation was being investigated. When the vocation director confronted Erickson, he vehemently denied this allegation.

4. Did the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary require that Erickson be evaluated?

After hearing these allegations, the rector of the seminary advised Erickson, with the prior approval of the Diocese of Superior, that he seek professional counseling and testing from a clinical psychologist in La Crosse, Wis. Erickson agreed to do this in March 1994 and continued counseling and evaluation until May 1996.

The conclusion of this evaluation was that he was a proper candidate for theological school, and that he would be a thoughtful, hard-working, and caring priest. As a result, the rector of Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary recommended that Erickson be allowed to continue in the seminary and to proceed to the school of theology.

5. What further action did the Vilas County district attorney's office take?

On July 13, 1994, Bishop Fliss and Fr. Kevin Gordon received correspondence from the district attorney notifying them that as a result of the district attorney's investigation, they had concluded the allegations against Erickson were uncorroborated and no charges were filed. While there was no process for Father Erickson to exonerate himself because no charges were filed, he continually denied that anything improper had occurred.

6. Were there any additional psychological evaluations required of Erickson?

As required by the admittance process at St. Paul Seminary School of Theology, Erickson was evaluated in September 1996. The psychological evaluation stated: "The allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior do not appear to be significant in the context of this gentleman's overall psychological makeup. He does not appear to be predatory or exploitative in his overall orientation and he does not seem to be a high risk for acting in a sexually aggressive or manipulative manner in the future. The alleged sexual misconduct behaviors he described to us appear to be benign."

That psychological evaluation indicated that Erickson was a heterosexual and that the major concern was that he might be vulnerable to women who would take romantic or affectionate initiatives with him.

Upon the conclusion of his theological studies, the rector and faculty of St. Paul Seminary recommended that he be ordained as a priest.

7. Was any allegation received by the diocese of any improper sexual behavior between Erickson and any other person after he became a priest?

The diocese did not learn of any improper sexual behavior by Erickson until Dec. 17, 2004, when the Hudson police officers, during their investigation, informed the diocese of allegations that Erickson sexually molested a minor while a priest and had pornographic files on his computer.

8. Did the diocese as directed by the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People attempt to reach out to the alleged victim mentioned by the St. Croix County district attorney's office?

On Feb. 2, 2005, the diocesan attorney, upon the request of the Diocese of Superior, wrote to the St. Croix County district attorney asking for the name of this alleged victim so that the diocese could reach out with an appropriate response as required by the charter. As of this date, the district attorney has not responded to the diocese.

9. Was the Diocese of Superior ever aware of any events or issues that would indicate that Erickson would be capable of murder?

There certainly was no indication at any time that Erickson would be capable of the acts which the court has now found probable cause exists.

10. Has the Diocese of Superior held back any information that still needs to be released about Erickson?

In December 2004, the Diocese of Superior sent the complete and total file of Erickson to Eric G. Johnson, St. Croix County district attorney. Much of this information was stated in the John Doe proceedings.

11. Is it true that Bishop Fliss will soon be resigning as bishop?

Each bishop in the world is required to tender his resignation to the Holy Father upon reaching his 75th birthday. Bishop Fliss will write this letter on Oct. 25, 2005, when he celebrates his 75th birthday.

12. What has been the bishop's reaction all of these appalling events?

"In my role as bishop, I know that ultimate responsibility for much of what has taken place rests upon my shoulders. While I am truly sorry for not doing more to find out what really happened, I must apologize to the entire diocesan family and all the people of northern Wisconsin for these tragedies. I know the Lord is willing to forgive. I hope you will find it in your hearts to do the same."


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