KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A former Roman Catholic priest who was part of a $5 million sex abuse settlement in Wisconsin two decades ago was suspended from a volunteer position with Special Olympics Missouri and has admitted some of the abuse.
Mark Musso, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri, said the former priest, Tom Ericksen, 62, of Kansas City, was suspended indefinitely last week after the organization learned of the 1989 settlement with the Diocese of Superior, Wis.
Ericksen admitted in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that he had fondled three boys but denied having contact with a fourth child involved in the settlement. He said the settlement totaled about $5 million.
"I just fondled and stuff like that," Ericksen said during the interview in the lobby of his Kansas City apartment building.
"But I can't say I didn't do inappropriate things. ... But I never had sex" with them, he said. Ericksen also said he has not abused any children since leaving the priesthood, including Special Olympians.
"They think of me as an ogre. That I did this many more times. But I haven't," he said.
Ericksen said he had been volunteering with Special Olympics Missouri for about five years.
Bishop Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Superior was out of the office Monday and did not return a call seeking comment.
The settlement was a civil matter and no criminal charges were ever filed against Ericksen. Such charges could have triggered some online databases that track sexual offenders.
Musso noted that nothing turned up in a background check on Ericksen when he applied to volunteer. Musso said Ericksen's duties typically included checking in volunteers at area games and he was never "in any role in which he'd have direct access to athletes."
The settlement came to light recently when two men came forward to say Ericksen had abused them when he was pastor at their Wisconsin parish. Musso said Ericksen was suspended the day that Special Olympics Missouri learned of the settlement.
Ericksen left Wisconsin in 1983 and was removed from the priesthood in 1988. He said he first moved to Minneapolis, where he worked for AT&T as a customer service representative, and moved to Kansas City in 2005.
He began volunteering with Special Olympics Missouri soon after he arrived in Kansas City.
"It's my way of ministering now," he said.
The Duluth News Tribune has reported that two victims want Wisconsin prosecutors to file charges against Ericksen. Neither men responded to messages left at phone numbers listed in their names. Sawyer County District Attorney Tom Van Roy also did not return a call seeking comment.
Also Monday, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to post information about Ericksen and every other "admitted or credibly accused priest" who is in the area.
Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the diocese, said it has considered posting such information on its website, but she wasn't sure if it would do so. She noted that Ericksen has never worked in the diocese and is not registered as a parishioner.