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Bishop Fliss served for 22 years

Oct. 25, 1930: Raphael Michael Fliss born in Milwaukee to Paul Fliss and Valeria Kosobucka. 1962: Fliss received a doctorate in canon law from Lateran University in Rome. May 26, 1956: He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Albert G. Meyer in the...

Oct. 25, 1930: Raphael Michael Fliss born in Milwaukee to Paul Fliss and Valeria Kosobucka.

1962: Fliss received a doctorate in canon law from Lateran University in Rome.

May 26, 1956: He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Albert G. Meyer in the Cathedral of St. John, Milwaukee.

July 11, 1978: Fliss was made rector of St. John Cathedral, Milwaukee.

Dec. 21, 1979: Rev. Raphael Fliss was ordained as coadjutor bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Superior, with right of succession, in the Cathedral of Christ the King. It was the first time a bishop was consecrated by the diocese in 25 years. Among those in attendance of the ordination was Archbishop Jean Jadot, personal representative of Pope John Paul II.

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June 27, 1985: Fliss became the ninth Diocese of Superior bishop, succeeding Bishop George Hammes who weeks earlier had celebrated his silver jubilee.

Early 1990s: Fliss and his parishioners dealt with the closure and mergers of parishes -- including the closure of St. Patrick's Church in Superior -- because of a decline in clergy within the diocese's 16-county span in northern Wisconsin.

2002-2005: Fliss was instrumental in the $6.5 million three-year renovation of Cathedral of Christ the King, completed in 2005. The building, considered the bishop's church, was built in 1926-27 at Belknap Street and Baxter Avenue and was intended for completion in time for the diocese's 100-year anniversary.

In 2002 and 2005, Fliss dealt with backlash regarding his knowledge of and inaction toward clergy alleged to be sexually abusive.

In 2002 he denied knowing the details of Rev. David Malsch's alleged sexual offenses until years after they occurred. Malsch served the Superior Diocese from 1975 to 1984 and was eventually convicted of child enticement while serving a church in Tomahawk. After that story came to light, Fliss wrote a letter to parishioners, parish directors and clergy apologizing and blaming his own naivete about child sexual abuse as the reason for not thoroughly investigating a misconduct allegation 17 years prior. He had ordered Malsch to seek treatment for alcoholism, instead.

In 2005, it was discovered he had known since 1994 about allegations of sexual misconduct regarding Ryan Erickson, who was ruled by a judge as likely being responsible for the shooting deaths of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison at a Hudson funeral home in 2002 to cover up his misconduct. The 31-year-old priest was found hanged in his parish in Hurley in December of 2004 after he was questioned by authorities about the slayings.

Fliss apologized to St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Hudson for his "failings, omissions and lack of attentiveness," regarding Erickson. Erickson had been a priest at the church at one time, and O'Connell had been a member.

October 2006: Fliss resigned as bishop at age 75 -- a Catholic Church requirement for bishops when reaching that age.

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November 2006: A civil lawsuit was filed against Fliss and the Superior diocese alleging the Rev. Edward Beutner sexually abused a teenage Cathedral of Christ the King altar boy 40 years ago -- and that the act was covered up by church officials. Fliss' response was he removed Beutner from the priesthood in 2002 after he learned of the accusations.

December 2006: The parents of Ellison filed a wrongful death suit against the Superior diocese, saying it knew about alleged sexual abuse and didn't disclose the information. It also alleged Ellison was probably killed because he saw Erickson shoot O'Connell, who knew of the sexual abuse accusations against Erickson.

Compiled by Duluth News Tribune staff writer Jana Hollingsworth

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