Lord, Save Us From the People Who (Loudly) Follow You
This is the guy who most likely killed two and then hung himself.
When Father Ryan Erickson celebrated Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, the show was on and he was the star.
As he put it in an e-mail to his congregants, he liked his rituals "rich and mysterious"--a stark change from the "orgy of handshaking and hugs" to which they had become accustomed. The way Erickson hoisted the host over his head and held it aloft for a minute or more made a vivid contrast to the perfunctory elevation that the senior priests favored. Tears rolled down his cheeks during the ceremony. The monk's cassock he affected billowed theatrically, hiding the bulge at his waist from the pistol he always packed there.Erickson's energetic performance got mixed reviews. The parishioners who were wowed by his histrionics became known as "kneelers," because they knelt during Consecration. The "standers" were either uncomfortable with his act or oblivious....
For two years, the questions continued. This week, at last, St. Croix County Attorney Eric Johnson is presenting evidence connecting Father Ryan to the murders. Johnson will offer an explanation for what Erickson and O'Connell were talking about in the minutes before the murder. And he will confirm what has long been whispered by Erickson's harshest critics: that the crusading sexual moralist had been engaging in the same crimes against children that have devastated the Catholic church in recent years.You know, when we talk about the good, honest gay priests who will suffer because of the witchhunt, this "Magisterium"-obsessed one was neither good nor honest.
Father Ryan won't answer those charges. On December 19, 2004, he hung himself in the hallway of the church where he'd been reassigned, St. Mary's of the Seven Dolors, in Hurley, Wisconsin. His suicide came the day after investigators executed a search warrant on his living quarters, looking for evidence that would connect him to the murders. What they discovered, according to a front-page Pioneer Press article, is child pornography on his computer, some of it involving bondage.
ERICKSON'S FELLOW seminarians at St. Paul's Seminary referred to him as "the Monsignor" because of his ultra-conservative religious views. After being ordained in June 2000, he was assigned to St. Patrick's. Pictures of him taken around that time show a baby-faced, bespectacled young man with a dour expression.
He came to St. Patrick's with some firm beliefs: that levity had no place in sermons; that Mass should be celebrated at least partly in Latin; that it was his calling to lecture parishioners, especially children, about mortal sin. In a simpler age more experienced priests might have channeled Father Ryan's energy into something productive, and lightened up his dark side. Instead aging head priest Peter Szleszinski left him to find his own niche, and he became the central figure in a parish-wide struggle that fed his messianic impulses....
One of Father Ryan's chores at St. Patrick's School was sex education. His conservative supporters liked the priest's black-and-white approach to the topic, but other parents were alarmed by what he told their kids. Mortal sins and the temptation to commit them were his major concern. Abortion was high on his list, but it was trumped by masturbation, which obsessed him.
He later expressed himself on that topic in a "thought for the day" e-mailed to his followers: "Even Sunday Mass is not safe from the immodest dress of some devils. They come to read, give out Holy Communion, etc....looking like an advertisement. There [sic] immodest dress says to all present: I'm easy! Please go home and masturbate to my beautiful body. The sad thing is that some do."
Father Ryan's reference to church-going Catholic women as "devils" must have struck some on his e-mail list as odd, but nobody doubted that he got his details about rampant onanism firsthand. Father Ryan aggressively sought confessional visitors. He instructed the students at St. Patrick's school to come to him for confession, and got pushy if they were reluctant. Why haven't you seen Father this week? he asked several junior high students.
And, of course, what would any "Magisterium"-obsessed clerical princess be without a little premature dabbling in the purple rain?
Some of Father Ryan's critics wonder if he was trying to poison his way to the top. He'd made no secret of his desire to take over at St. Patrick's, and even did so unofficially when Father Peter left on a vacation during Father Ryan's tenure there.
"He just stepped in and acted like he was the head priest," says a parishioner. "He found himself a monsignor's outfit and started wearing it. It really looked ludicrous on this baby-faced young man. It was like a Saturday Night Live routine."
Good thing I haven't had lunch yet. It's lunatics like this who prey on people's quest for truth who are the whole kit-n-caboodle of the crisis. And even when the Instruction comes, guess what, they'll still be there.