Former Diocese of Winona Priest Describes Encounter with Bishop, Concerns about Adamson Abuse
By Jerome Christenson
July 27, 2012
A former priest of the Diocese of Winona said Thursday he was literally shown the door when he told Bishop Edward Fitzgerald that the Rev. Thomas Adamson was sexually abusing boys in Caledonia, Minn.
Jim Fitzpatrick, a Caledonia native and priest for the diocese from 1963 to 1973, said he was assigned to the Winona Cathedral and Cotter High School when parents from his hometown came to Winona to ask what he could do about what Adamson was doing to boys in Caledonia.
Fitzpatrick said he would talk with the bishop, but when he went to Fitzgerald and related what the parents told him about their sons and about 15 other boys, Fitzgerald told him he would deal with his priests and showed him out of his office.
Fitzpatrick described his encounter with the bishop in a news conference Thursday in St. Paul. Fitzpatrick was to be a witness in the case brought against the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona by James Keenan, claiming he had in 1980-81 been sexually abused by Adamson and that church officials had been aware of Adamson’s history of child sexual abuse.
But earlier this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling that dismissed the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. Keenan had argued that his case was still within the limitations because his memories were repressed.
Fitzpatrick said that since he would not have the opportunity to tell his story in court, he was coming forward publicly as a “matter of conscience.”
Fitzpatrick said he had further contact concerning Adamson while working as parish administrator at Guardian Angel parish in Oakdale, where in 1981 Adamson was to be assigned as associate pastor. He said he contacted the Rev. Donald Schmitz, then chancellor of the Winona diocese, who told him Adamson was still abusing boys.
Fitzpatrick said he discussed the situation with Bishop Robert Carlson — now Archbishop of St. Louis — and Adamson was assigned to the parish in Apple Valley-Burnsville, where he met James Keenan.
Fitzpatrick said he did not come forward at the time because as a church employee challenging the hierarchy, “I was afraid I would lose my job.”
Adamson, 78, was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. Allegations of his sexual involvement with young boys date from the early 1960s. In 1975, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul after a number of abuse complaints had been brought to the attention of church officials in the Winona diocese. He continued in the active priesthood until 1984.
While Adamson never faced criminal abuse charges — the statute of limitations had expired — he was named in three civil suits settled out of court, and a fourth suit brought against the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was decided in favor of the complainant.