Minnesota Priest's Abuse Allegations Should Be Public, Lawyer Argues
By John Brewer
July 10, 2013
|"I know that I struggled for 50 years with what happened to me," David Pususta, left, said Wednesday in recounting the abuse he said he suffered in the 1960s at the hands of a Catholic priest in Waverly, Minn. Listening at right is St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson|
The most powerful men in Waverly, Minn., in the 1960s were the banker and the parish priest.
That's why when the Rev. John T. Brown told the parents of 10-year-old David Pususta to send him over to the rectory for sex education, they sent him.
It was on that summer night, Pususta, now 62 and living in St. Paul, said Wednesday that Brown first sexually abused him.
Pususta said that during Brown's sex education "examinations," he stroked, gripped and tugged the boy's genitals.
Pususta spoke at a news conference at the St. Paul offices of attorney Jeff Anderson, who, on Pususta's behalf, filed a notice of intervention in Ramsey County District Court to unseal a list of 33 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Anderson, who first saw the list in 2009, said he couldn't say whether Brown was included. But the public should know who is included, he and Pususta said, so no more children are put at risk and any abusers can be held accountable.
"There can be no legal justification in our view of keeping this sealed any longer," Anderson said of the list compiled in 2004 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and sealed five years later by court order.
Brown, who now lives in a Maplewood senior center, declined to comment when reached by telephone Wednesday morning.
"I'm not interested" in talking, he said before hanging up.
Pususta said he dealt with repeated abuse without counseling for 50 years before he finally sought help in 2010. He said
he came forward now after he learned that a law passed this year by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton lifted a six-year civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Anderson said they filed the intervention as an emergency measure to have the list unsealed because Pususta was able to obtain a 1992 letter written by the Rev. Kevin McDonough that notes the archdiocese was aware of Brown's inappropriate behavior as far back as 1966, when a parent of a child examined by Brown during a sex education session complained to the church.
"Father Brown denies that any of this contact was sexual in nature," McDonough wrote in the letter seeking guidance from a Minneapolis counselor. "He recognizes its inappropriateness from the point of view of people's perception, and has been concerned from time to time, particularly in recent years, that it might come back against him.
"On the other hand, he is absolutely adamant that there was no element of sexual attraction on his part, nor was there ever any behavior, beyond the examination itself, that would lead young people to believe they were being used sexually."
Brown said he gave examinations about 15 times between 1948 and 1966, according to the letter. Since then, he served at parishes in Minneapolis, Marysburg, Faribault, St. Paul and Hazelwood. He retired in 1991, according to records provided by Anderson.
Pususta said that as a 10-year-old, he didn't realize that the fondling he experienced was anything more than learning about the "birds and the bees," he said. He knows better now.
"I would hope that people that were put in the same situation as I was through the behaviors of John Brown, if they don't seek legal help, they could get psychological help, if in fact they need it," he said. "I know that I struggled for 50 years with what happened to me and I can't believe that some of my friends struggled with the same situation."
The archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying a Ramsey County judge has twice denied requests to unseal the list.
It said that during a 52-year period, from 1950 through 2002, "allegations which were not implausible had been made against 26 archdiocesan priests and seven religious order or priests from other dioceses."
As for Pususta's claims, it said that Brown "has been out of ministry since 1991, is now 92 years old and resides in a nursing home."
Since 1987, it said, the archdiocese "has developed, identified and implemented policies and procedures to prevent the sexual abuse of minors."