Man Sues Superior Bishop Alleging Inaction on Sexual Abuse

Associated Press , carried in West Central Tribune [Superior Wis]
November 22, 2006

A man who claims he was abused by a Roman Catholic priest in the late 1960s is suing Bishop Raphael Fliss of the Diocese of Superior, alleging that Fliss has failed to report accusations of abuse.

The man identified in court documents as John Doe 113 filed suit Wednesday in St. Louis County District Court in Duluth, Minn., said his lawyer Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn. The man alleged he was abused while on an overnight trip to Minnesota by the Rev. Edward Beutner, a retired priest who once taught for the diocese and is named along with Fliss as a defendant.

Anderson said the man and three others were abused when they were teens, but they kept silent until meeting recently at a reunion. They scheduled a meeting with Fliss several months ago to share their concerns, and he told them the statute of limitations had expired on any crime, Anderson said.

He said his client decided to file suit because he wanted Catholic officials to check for other past abuse and prevent future incidents.

A message left with the diocese Wednesday evening by The Associated Press seeking comment was not returned.

The Daily Telegram of Superior reported that a secretary for the diocese said Wednesday that Fliss was not available to comment on the lawsuit, which diocese officials had not yet seen, and that the Rev. Phillip Heslin, a diocese spokesman, was unavailable while recovering from surgery.

No telephone listing for Beutner could be found when The Associated Press attempted to reach him.

A check of Wisconsin's computerized court records found no charges ever filed against Beutner.

The group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Beutner is believed to be living in the Milwaukee area. The group held a news conference in Milwaukee Wednesday and urged church leaders to remove him from the ministry.

Beutner was assigned to two churches in Superior - Cathedral of Christ the King from 1966 to 1968 and Holy Assumption Church from 1975 to 1978, and had a number of other assignments in Wisconsin over the years, the lawsuit said.

A Menomonie woman said she too had complained to the bishop about Beutner.

Connie Ross said she told Fliss four years ago that the priest sexually abused her more than a decade before. She asked the diocese in a letter to reimburse her for the cost of therapy, but she said Wednesday that she never received a response to her request.

Anderson, who represented her, also sent a letter to the bishop at the time demanding action, but he said it was "largely ignored."

Anderson, contacted Wednesday night, said the lawsuit was filed in Minnesota because Wisconsin case law has ruled out damage suits against churches in such cases.


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