Twin Cities Priest Didn't Sexually Abuse Children, He Testifies
By Richard Chin
June 24, 2014
Jerome Kern, a Twin Cities priest accused in a 2013 lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s, said he didn't feel he was doing anything wrong when he had physical contact with children in the past, according to a deposition transcript released Tuesday.
"I never saw anything myself in terms of sexual abuse," testified Kern, who worked in St. Paul and Forest Lake parishes and is accused by a man identified as Doe 26, who says Kern "engaged in unpermitted sexual contact" with him in the 1970s when Kern served as a priest at Our Lady of Grace in Edina.
Over the decades, at least 20 people have claimed that Kern abused them when they were children, according to St.
|The Rev. Jerome Kern continued to work around children, he says in a deposition with St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson. (Courtesy of Jeff Anderson and Associates)|
Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing Doe 26 in the lawsuit against Kern and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Anderson's office released a transcript Tuesday of a deposition Kern gave April 15.
In his deposition, Kern, a priest since 1966, said his conduct with children was never reported to police as far as he knows, nobody from the archdiocese told him what he was doing was a crime or warned him he could go to jail for touching children, and he was never concerned that he would be arrested for his behavior with children.
"No. Because I thought it was a -- at that time I thought it was appropriate, you know. Now I realize it's not, but ..." Kern said, according to the deposition transcript.
In the deposition, Kern, now 73, characterized his contact with children as nonsexual horseplay, hugging and wrestling.
"And that was the good priest, you know, to be seen with the young people ... so I played sports, you know, I recreated and -- and I was always a teaser, and I liked to tease, you know, and I -- I never thought of it as sexual, though, you know," Kern said, according to deposition transcript.
Kern said that he is bisexual but that he did not have sexual urges or fantasies toward youth, according to the deposition transcript.
He admitted that in 1977, he was in a swimming pool with a teenager. According to the deposition transcript, he said "I did put my arms around him in front and -- and at some -- I touched him on the outside, never the inside of the suit, not the inside of the suit. And -- and at some point, you know, I thought, does -- does he have an erection?"
But Kern denied ever having "skin to skin" contact with a child's genitals.
In the deposition, Kern denied claims of sexual abuse with individuals identified as Doe 1 to Doe 26. Kern denied that: he told Doe 26 that Kern was going to tell the teen's parents that the youth was gay unless he let him touch his genitals; made Doe 26 engage in oral sex; fondled Doe 26 to orgasm and engaged in sexual contact with Doe 26 while in confession.
In the deposition, Anderson referred to another accuser who Anderson said killed himself after writing a statement saying in part, "The past will always haunt you. Its power makes you weak and frail."
Kern denied he engaged in sexual contact with that person and said he didn't feel he had any role in the person's suicide.
In 1988, Kern said he was asked by then-archdiocese Vicar General Michael O'Connell to write a letter of apology to parents of children who had complained about Kern in 1969, according to the deposition transcript. But Kern denied that O'Connell implied that the letter would help keep the matter away from the police or the public.
Kern also denied that another former vicar general, Kevin McDonough, told him in 1993 to keep quiet about another lawsuit that accused him of sexual abuse so that parishioners would not hear about it.
Kern was removed from active ministry in 2002. Under questioning during the deposition, he said his removal was connected to sexual abuse accusations erupting at the time in the Archdiocese of Boston.
"Well, because of the whole Boston thing that was, you know ... spreading across the country, da, da, da, and they just thought it would be better if, you know, I no longer worked and --," Kern said, according to the deposition transcript.
Anderson said Kern's testimony is typical of most offenders in denying acts of abuse.
"All you get from him is the mind of the offender," Anderson said. "In the mind of the molester, the denials are typical."