Bishop Raphael Fliss of Superior apologized Sunday for the way he handled the situation involving a local priest, who a judge ruled likely killed two funeral home workers nearly four years ago and later committed suicide.
"I know that ultimate responsibility for much of what has taken place rests upon my shoulders,” the bishop said before 700 people at St. Patrick's Church in Hudson, reported the Associated Press. “I am the one who must be held accountable for the lack of proper supervision and for all else that I failed to see, heed and act upon."
The bishop apologized for his “failings, omissions and lack of attentiveness to the entire responsibility that is mine. Truly, I wish I could turn the clock and calendar back and be given another opportunity to do it all much better," he reportedly said.
This was the first time the bishop spoke with Hudson parishioners about the situation with their former priest, Fr. Ryan Erickson, 31, who hanged himself about a year ago, a few days after police questioned him in the 2002 murders of Daniel O'Connell, 39, and James Ellison, 22. O’Connell was a parishioner at St. Patrick’s.
In October, St. Croix County Circuit Judge Eric Lundell ruled there was probable cause that Erickson shot the two men at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home. District Atty. Eric Johnson said evidence suggested O’Connell found out the priest was sexually abusing someone, was providing alcohol to minors, or both, reported the AP.
The bishop admitted Sunday that he had received complaints about Erickson, but said he also got “more letters praising him than condemning him." In retrospect, Fliss said, he should have appointed a group to discuss the complaints.
The bishop promised better evaluation of priests and improved communication with parishes to resolve complaints.
O'Connell's mother, Janet O'Connell, said the bishop was irresponsible by not addressing problems with the priest before the murders.