Iowa's four Roman Catholic bishops are named in a long-shot Wisconsin lawsuit that seeks to compel every U.S. bishop to release the names and locations of all abusive priests - a list estimated to be in excess of 5,000 names, according to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' study.
The unprecedented lawsuit was filed by the family of Dan O'Connell of Hudson, Wis., who along with a co-worker was slain in February 2002. After a two-year investigation, Wisconsin authorities concluded that the Rev. Ryan Erickson, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Hudson, shot O'Connell after a heated argument.
If successful, the lawsuit will plow complex new legal ground, touching on issues of privacy and church privilege. But to get that far in the court system, the O'Connells' lawyers will have to establish the family's standing in the lawsuit. The family may have an actionable grievance against its own diocese, but it likely will be hard to prove that its allegations of wrongdoing automatically extend to other Catholic dioceses around the country.
"In the United States we don't let people go to court to sue on behalf of other people's rights," said Randall Bezanson, an expert in privacy law and religion at University of Iowa law school.
"People have to have a stake in the lawsuit," he said. "The legal system is not designed to deal with generalized grievances by people who have suffered no concrete harm or have no stake in seeking relief." [snip] Des Moines Register