"Forced Release" of Priests" Names Not Enough
By Kay Fate
December 17, 2013
The release Monday of a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse was almost exactly five years coming.
What started as a lawsuit against the Diocese of Winona has been batted around multiple courts since Dec. 5, 2008.
And with it came an apology from Bishop John Quinn: "Over the past few decades, a number of clergy members in the Diocese of Winona sadly have been accused of violating the sacred trust placed in them by children, youth and their families and were accused of detestable crimes of sexual abuse. This has caused insufferable harm to victims, their families, parishioners and the Church. For this I am truly sorry."
At the heart of the suit is Thomas Adamson, now 80, a former priest who served in Rochester; the diocese moved him from parish to parish despite multiple complaints of abuse that surfaced as early as 1964. His behavior was reported to superiors six times; it was never reported to police.
In 1980, Adamson — who by then had been moved out of southeastern Minnesota — began to abuse Jim Keenan, then 13, at a church in Burnsville.
When Keenan came forward about the abuse in 2002, the criminal statute of limitations against Adamson had expired. Keenan sued the diocese, seeking the names and documents of the 13 priests the diocese knew had been abusive.
The diocese was ordered to produce the names and documents to Keenan's attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Associates; a court ruling in 2009 blocked the firm from making the names public.
A final court ruling Dec. 3 in Ramsey County ordered the Winona Diocese to release the names by today. It's that list that came out Monday.
"This release is not a voluntary release," said Mike Finnegan, an attorney at Anderson's firm. "This is a forced disclosure from the bishop. We've had these names since 2009 and have had the burden of carrying them. Each time we went to court, the bishop fought the release of these names."
Joel Hennessy, director communications for the Diocese of Winona, has a different explanation.
"While we definitely strive for justice, because these claims are so old, these people are deceased and didn't have a chance to defend themselves," he said Monday. "So that was a primary reason, obviously, for being hesitant to release the list prior."
Monday was the first time 12 of the names were known to the public. In addition to Adamson, Leo Charles Koppala faces criminal sexual conduct charges in Faribault County for allegedly assaulting an 11-year-old girl.
Of the priests whose names were released, 11 served in Rochester schools or parishes. Nine of the priests are dead; the remainder have retired or been removed from the ministry.
Norm Reopell, a Rochester Catholic asked for reaction after Mass this morning at Resurrection Catholic Church in Rochester, said he's disappointed the diocese is releasing the names of priests who are dead because they can't defend themselves. "What good does that do?" he asked.
Hennessy said any new credible allegations will automatically be disclosed and they continue to review their files.
The dioceses of Duluth, New Ulm and Crookston have upcoming hearings that will request similar lists. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a list of 32 priests credibly accused of abuse, after a court order earlier this month.
Quinn said the diocese continues to take steps to change:
"The Diocese of Winona has fully adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ("the Charter"), as promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop, and is committed to combating the problems of sexual abuse, protecting the young and vulnerable, caring for the victims of abuse, and restoring trust and hope. We are committed to a process of transparency about sexual abuse by clergy and the disclosure of names of those with substantiated claims so that this will never occur again."
Timeline of victims' efforts to make the Diocese of Winona's list public
Nov. 26, 2008: As part of his lawsuit against the Diocese of Winona, Jim Keenan (John Doe 76C) who was sexually abused as a child by Thomas Adamson, sought the names and documents on the Diocese of Winona's 13 priests.
Dec. 5, 2008: Order issued requiring the Diocese to produce the names and documents.
April 17, 2009: Diocese of Winona's protective order granted which prevented Jim Keenan and his attorneys from making the names public.
April 21, 2010: The Diocese used the statue of limitations (time limits) to get Keenan's case thrown out of court.
Nov. 2, 2010: Keenan appealed.
Nov 27, 2010: The Diocese sought to charge Jim Keenan with the $67,928 the Diocese paid to defend the lawsuit.
June 27, 2011: Court of Appeals reversed and said the case could proceed.
July 22, 2011: TheDiocese appealed the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
July 25, 2012: Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the case was barred by the statue of limitations
May 24, 2013: Child Victims Act became law allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims.
May 29, 2013: Doe 1, an unidentified victim, brought a lawsuit against the Diocese alleging nuisance and seeking to have the list of names made public.
Sept. 3, 2013: Another survivor, David Pususta, sought to intervene in Jim Keenan's previous case to have the lists of names unsealed and released to the public. The Diocese successfully fought this effort.
12/2/13 Ramsey County Court had a hearing on the Doe 1 case to discuss the potential release of names of priests. The Diocese of Winona argued against the release of the list of names.
12/3/13 Ramsey Country Court ordered the Diocese of Winona to release the list of names by Dec. 17.