The church protects its own
By Madeleine Baran
Minnesota Public Radio
July 21, 2014
|Attorney Jeff Anderson first represented a victim of clergy sex abuse in 1984.|
|Archbishop John Roach led the Twin Cities Catholic church from 1975 until 1995.|
|Brian Herrity, at about age 9, close to the time when the abuse began. |
|Former priest James Porter served in the Fall River Diocese of Massachusetts during the 1960s. He pleaded guilty 1993 for sexually abusing 28 children.|
|The Boston Globe broke the story of the scandal in 2002. | The Globe's coverage|
|Twin Cities Archbishop John Roach (left) installed his successor, Archbishop Harry Flynn (center), at a Mass in the Cathedral of St. Paul in 1995. |
In the fall of 1984, with reporters and top church officials focused on the clergy abuse crisis in Lafayette, a lawyer in Minnesota received a phone call that would lead to the church's next major scandal.
Jeff Anderson, then 37, had created a name for himself in the Twin Cities as a combative, ambitious trial lawyer who represented underdogs and outcasts. Tanned and trim at 5 feet 5 inches, often dressed in a three-piece suit, he projected a confidence and intensity that captivated jurors.
Anderson idolized Clarence Darrow, the famous crusading attorney who took on powerful institutions, and he decided to go to law school after reading a Darrow biography called "Attorney for the Damned." He barely graduated. "I couldn't really engage in the study of the past, which law requires you to do, because I was more interested in shaping the future," he recalled.
One day, Anderson got a call from a colleague about a married couple who claimed their son had been abused by a Catholic priest. He didn't want the case but thought Anderson might.
He was right. Anderson met John and Janet Riedle, who explained that their son Gregory had been sexually abused by a priest named Thomas Adamson. They said they'd met with Chancellor Robert Carlson, but he refused to remove Adamson from his parish.
Then the couple showed him a check for about $1,500 they'd received after going to the archdiocese. "Should we cash it?" they asked.
"Go ahead," Anderson said. "But we also need to call the police, and I need to look into this."
Anderson wasn't sure where to start. He'd never heard of a priest raping a child, and a search of court records for lawsuits came up empty. He looked up the full name of the local Catholic Church and wrote it down: the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Then he prepared a lawsuit and walked it over to the chancery. The next day, he got a call from a church lawyer. As he recalled later, the lawyer asked, "What do you want?"
"I want the priest out," Anderson said.
"OK," the lawyer said. "We're removing him today. What else do you want?"
"I want to know who's in charge," Anderson said.
"Archbishop John Roach," the lawyer said.
"Well, then, I need to ask him questions under oath and take his deposition."
"That's impossible," the lawyer said. "That will never be done. That has never been done."
Anderson took a deep breath. "Well, I'll just have to file this case and get a court to order it," he said.
The threat of publicity worked. Roach agreed to talk.
Hometown boy makes archbishop
Roach, then 64, had served as archbishop for 11 years.
He oversaw an archdiocese that included 565,195 parishioners, 382 priests and 222 parishes stretched over 12 counties. His influence extended to six Catholic hospitals, 133 Catholic schools, two colleges, two seminaries and Catholic Charities, one of the largest social service organizations in the state.
At the heart of it all was the city of St. Paul, where Catholic roots run deep. Its first chapel was built in 1841 by a French priest, who named the area after the apostle Paul. The Cathedral of St. Paul now dominates the skyline.
Roach was a hometown boy, the first and only Minnesota native to serve as archbishop. Many knew him first as the kid who worked at his father's general store in Prior Lake, as a classmate at Shakopee High School, as the stern Latin and religion teacher at St. Thomas Academy or as the head of the local seminary. When parishioners prayed on Sundays for "John R. Roach, our bishop," they felt a surge of pride.
Roach knew his priests and parishioners well. He was a tough, decisive leader who worked long hours and had little patience for those who didn't.
Parishioners praised his no-nonsense, populist style and firm convictions. Bishops took notice and, in 1980, elected Roach to lead the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the most prominent Catholic organization in the country.
Even Roach's weaknesses garnered sympathy. When he was arrested for drunk driving in 1985, Roach announced, in characteristically blunt fashion, that he would attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Parishioners rallied around him, and Roach was more popular than ever.
Now a little-known lawyer was threatening to ruin the archbishop's reputation.
Roach had never been questioned under oath. On the afternoon of May 8, 1986, he walked into Anderson's St. Paul office wearing a clerical collar and a large crucifix. Six attorneys stood by his side.
Anderson started off with some basic questions.
"How does one get to be archbishop?" he asked.
Roach replied, "Incredible talent, I suppose." Then he added, "I've been a priest of this archdiocese for almost 40 years."
As Anderson moved to the tough questions, Roach realized what he was facing.
How many priests had been accused of sexual misconduct? How many had been transferred to other dioceses? What happened to a priest who misbehaved? Did the archbishop ever kick out a priest? What did it mean to be celibate? Did that rule out masturbation, too?
Roach's face turned red. He refused to say whether priests in the archdiocese had been accused of abuse. "I don't see it's relevant to this question at this point."
Anderson then shifted to the Adamson case.
'I'm asking the questions, Archbishop'
He'd been preparing for this moment for months. By threatening to make the lawsuit public, Anderson had forced the church to turn over dozens of internal memos.
The documents showed that Adamson had been accused of sexual misconduct in 1974 while serving at a parish in the Diocese of Winona. No one called police. Instead, Winona Bishop Loras Watters sent Adamson to a private psychiatric hospital in Connecticut, where the indignant priest typed letters complaining about his treatment. "I am the ONLY one of the patients on this unit who cares about and watches the evening news," he wrote.
Watters ignored the letters and sent Adamson to the Twin Cities for therapy with a priest hired by the archdiocese. Even after Adamson had spent months in therapy, Watters didn't think he was ready for a parish assignment, but Roach did. In 1976, Roach sent Adamson to St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park. Three years later, he moved Adamson to Immaculate Conception parish in Columbia Heights, where the priest coached boys' basketball and held sleepovers in the rectory.
One day, another priest overheard two altar boys call Adamson a "faggot." The Rev. Joseph Wajda pulled the boys aside. "You shouldn't be saying that," he scolded.
"Well, Father, it's true," the boys said.
How could they know that Adamson was gay? Wajda took the boys out for ice cream to find out. They told him that Adamson took one of their friends to the YMCA and tried to grab his penis in the whirlpool.
Wajda reported the allegations to the Rev. Robert Carlson, the archdiocese's chancellor, who asked him to make sure Adamson stayed away from children. No one called police. When the boy's father came forward a few days later, Roach sent Adamson to a hospital for treatment and then transferred him to a parish in Apple Valley, where he remained until Anderson demanded his removal.
Now, with Roach sitting before him, Anderson demanded answers. What did you know about Adamson's sexual problems in Winona? Nothing, Roach said. Didn't you know that Adamson was in therapy? Yes, but that's all confidential.
Roach refused to explain why he didn't call police when he learned of the abuse at the YMCA.
Anderson pulled out a memo written by Carlson in 1984 after he met with the parents of his client, Greg Riedle. It said, "The statute of limitations does not run out for two and a half years. The mother and father are considering reporting this to police."
Roach claimed not to know what Carlson meant.
Clearly uncomfortable, Roach tried to take control of the deposition by offering to rephrase Anderson's questions.
"No," Anderson said. "I'm asking the questions, Archbishop. You're answering."
"Then why don't you move on?" Roach asked.
By the time the deposition ended, Anderson was certain that Roach was lying. After everyone left, Anderson turned to his assistant. "This whole thing stinks. This is like Watergate. I feel like I'm talking to Richard Nixon."
Anderson kept digging and the contradictions piled up. Some of the deceit was obvious. Watters, the Winona bishop, admitted under oath that Carlson had given him advice on how to handle a deposition: "The best thing you can say is, 'I don't remember.'"
The more Anderson found, the worse it got, and Roach knew he had a problem. The Adamson case could destroy the credibility of the church and lead to questions about other priests. It needed to be resolved.
The archdiocese's lawyers gave Anderson a call. "We want to offer a million dollars — with the usual confidentiality agreement," they said.
Anderson couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Did you say usual? You mean you've done this before?"
Yes, of course, the lawyers said.
Anderson was stunned. He suspected that Adamson had abused dozens of kids — and that he wasn't the only priest Roach was protecting. However, with a secret settlement, no one would know.
Anderson couldn't sleep that night. He went to see his 22-year-old client in the morning and asked him to do something that he knew sounded crazy — turn down the million-dollar settlement and expose the cover-up in a public lawsuit.
Riedle sighed. "That's a ton of money."
"I know," Anderson said. "It's huge. But it's wrong, and what they've done is wrong. And there's other kids, Greg."
"I know, Jeff," Riedle said. He thought it over. "OK, I trust you, I trust you. Turn it down, but turn it down quick before I change my mind."
The two men hugged and Anderson rushed over to the courthouse to file the lawsuit. Then he called every reporter he knew.
A verdict that 'sent a message'
The next morning, Minnesotans awoke to front-page headlines revealing that one of the most powerful men in the state had protected a predator.
Immediately, the archdiocese fought back. Carlson, now an auxiliary bishop, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch that church leaders didn't understand three years ago that pedophilia could not be cured. He said the church would no longer allow abusive priests to return to parishes. It was a terrible mistake, one the church would never make again, he said.
Privately, Roach and his advisers worried they might be caught protecting other priests.
Two days after the Adamson news broke, Carlson wrote a confidential memo to Roach. "As the Adamson case develops my concern regarding two other cases is on the rise. I feel it would be good for us to review the Kapoun case and, in light of new reports, the DeSutter case," he wrote. "The information on these two cases is probably in the secret archives. I doubt very much is in the main vault."
Robert Kapoun and Gilbert DeSutter were priests who had remained in ministry for years, despite allegations of child sexual abuse.
In the weeks that followed, Roach secretly moved several offenders to out-of-state treatment centers and forced some priests to sign contracts that prohibited contact with children.
But the scandal didn't go away. Newspapers reported on pedophilia, celibacy and treatment centers for abusive priests. All of the experts quoted by reporters agreed that pedophilia could not be cured. As one psychologist said, "You don't send an alcoholic back to be a bartender."
In March 1988, the archdiocese reached a $1.1 million settlement with Greg Riedle, the Adamson victim. This time, the settlement did not include a confidentiality clause. The secret was out, and Anderson's phone kept ringing.
In 1990, before a six-person jury in Anoka County, Anderson argued on behalf of another Adamson victim that the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Winona diocese had protected the priest instead of his client.
The jury deliberated nearly four days. It returned with a $3.5 million verdict that included $865,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages. Anderson's client, Tom Mrozka, broke down sobbing.
Outside the courtroom, Anderson was ecstatic. "In their verdict they have sent a message to the defendant diocese of Winona and the archdiocese and perhaps every diocese in this country," he said.
Roach was taken aback. It was the first time any Catholic diocese in the United States had been ordered to pay punitive damages. Insurance wouldn't cover it. The archbishop denounced the verdict as a "violation of justice." His new chancellor, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, added, "We had never seriously considered that this was going to happen."
A judge later slashed the punitive damages award to $150,000. Both sides appealed and later agreed on a settlement of $1.2 million.
The house that Adamson built
The Adamson lawsuits drew the battle lines for the next 30 years, with victims and Jeff Anderson on one side and the church and its lawyers on the other.
It was an intensely personal fight. Anderson saw himself as a crusader for the rights of victims and the safety of children. He would devote the rest of his career to exposing the Catholic Church's cover-up of abuse, a quest that would lead him all the way to the Vatican.
Anderson used lawsuits to pry documents out of the hands of church officials. Hundreds of internal memos and dozens of depositions provided damning evidence. They showed that Roach and his deputies — Robert Carlson, Kevin McDonough and Michael O'Connell — knew of other priests who had sexually abused children. Time after time, they kept the priest in ministry and failed to call police.
Anderson's chief nemesis in the courtroom was Andrew Eisenzimmer, an attorney who worked for the St. Paul firm of Meier, Kennedy and Quinn. He represented the archdiocese in nearly every case.
Eisenzimmer developed an arsenal of legal defenses. He argued that the lawsuits violated constitutional protections for religious groups, medical privacy laws and the sanctity of the priesthood. In some cases, he argued that priests were independent contractors, not employees, so the archdiocese couldn't be held liable for their actions. In others, he said that priests abused children "off the job."
When those tactics failed, Eisenzimmer argued that the statute of limitations had expired. Anderson fought to change the statute, and it was revised several times from 1988 to 2013.
Eisenzimmer sparred with Anderson outside the courtroom as well. In 1991, he told the Star Tribune that Anderson was "aggressive in the sense of the word that means he's pursuing his clients' interests, but I think his pursuit of those interests serve his own interests as well...I think he's hit on a lucrative area."
It was also a lucrative area for Eisenzimmer, though the story didn't mention it.
At the chancery, top church officials still jokingly refer to Eisenzimmer's $350,000 lake home as "The house that Adamson built." Nearly three decades later, Eisenzimmer continues to brag about the case.
At an unrelated hearing last September, Eisenzimmer showed up wearing a cowboy hat and spent 20 minutes loudly gossiping about the Adamson lawsuits with the archdiocese's civil chancellor, Joe Kueppers.
"More than 2 million in punitive damages, down to 50,000 bucks!" Eisenzimmer said, laughing and playing loose with the actual numbers.
"You did a good job there," Kueppers said.
Parish after parish, priest after priest
Anderson had pulled back the curtain on a secret world of sex and deception.
In 1987, the archdiocese was home to at least 25 priests now suspected of sexually abusing children. The archdiocese's Boy Scouts program was run by an accused pedophile. He got the job when another abusive priest left.
Only two offenders — the Rev. Gilbert Gustafson and the Rev. Michael Stevens — had been criminally charged and convicted.
Most abusers served in parishes where they exploited the trust of parents to gain access to children. Priests sexually assaulted children on camping trips, in rectories, in cars, at swimming pools and in showers. They groomed children by making them feel special or allowing them to break rules. Some tried to mask the abuse as a kind of sexual education. More than a few claimed they were teaching boys how to masturbate.
With so many abusers in the mix, children or their parents would sometimes confide in a trusted priest only to find out later that he also was a pedophile. Clergy abuse was so pervasive that some priests reported that they had been victims as well. Wajda, the priest who reported Adamson's abuse to the chancery, was later accused of similar offenses.
The Rev. Michael Kolar, who ran the Catholic Youth Center, testified in 1991 that he had been sexually abused by a priest when he was a 22-year-old student at St. Paul Seminary. He said the priest had taken him and other students to a cabin where he tried to get them drunk to coerce them into sex.
Kolar, who had admitted sexually exploiting young women, said it wasn't until he entered treatment that he realized he had also been a victim.
In sworn testimony, McDonough, Roach's deputy, identified Kolar's alleged abuser as Monsignor Jerome Boxleitner, the director of Catholic Charities. McDonough said he knew of Kolar's claim that Boxleitner "touched him on the genitals," but didn't consider it sexual abuse. Boxleitner stayed in ministry and remained a prominent Twin Cities leader until his death in 2013.
Some parishes were served for decades by a series of priests now known to have been accused of child sexual abuse.
At St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, for example, the Rev. Thomas Stitts, who was later accused of abusing dozens of boys, served as pastor from 1979 to 1984. He was replaced by the Rev. Gerald Grieman, a priest now under criminal investigation for alleged child sexual abuse, who served as pastor from 1985 to 1996. Six years after Grieman left, the Rev. Michael Keating arrived and served as the assistant pastor from 2002 to 2005. Keating was later accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl. He remains on leave from his professorship at the University of St. Thomas.
Both Keating and Grieman deny the allegations. Stitts died in 1985.
At St. Joseph of the Lakes parish in Lino Lakes, a string of accused priests served for 20 years. One offender served as the pastor and supervised two associate priests, both of whom were also accused of child sexual abuse. After all three men left, another abuser arrived.
On and on it went.
A network of support
Jeff Anderson soon realized that within the all-male world of the priesthood, clergy protected each other in a way similar to members of other closed groups, like the military. They had special powers that set them apart from the rest of society. They could deliver the sacraments and turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
They also vowed to avoid sex, a pledge that wasn't easy for most priests to keep. Some priests had sex with parishioners, strangers, prostitutes, nuns or other priests. Others had sex with women who claimed to serve as live-in housekeepers. In this world where all sex brought sin and shame, many priests had secrets to hide.
When they encountered a fellow priest abusing a child, most priests looked the other way.
As the scandal deepened, Roach sought the backing of lay therapists hired by the archdiocese to add credibility to the church's response.
He found a strong ally in Gary Schoener, a psychologist who ran the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis. Time and again, Schoener told reporters that the archdiocese's work was on the cutting edge.
"The archdiocese here has perhaps the finest policy on clergy abuse of anywhere in the country. It has been an international model," Schoener told a local magazine in 1991.
The Catholic Bulletin, the archdiocese's official newspaper, repeated Schoener's assurances and touted the impossible-to-verify and highly unlikely claim that his Minneapolis clinic "has handled more victim treatment cases than any clinic in the world."
The providers hired by Roach were reliably optimistic in their assessments of abusive priests. Records show no indication that any church-approved therapist reported suspected clergy sexual abuse to police, even though state law required it in many cases. (The law placed a similar requirement on priests beginning in 1988.)
Schoener told MPR News last week that he did not report abuse by priests because the abuse wasn't recent, and state law only required reporting claims within the past three years.
Roach also relied on hospitals to accept offenders as chaplains. He counted on police, prosecutors and judges to be lenient in the rare cases reported to police by parents or outside counselors. Police ignored the actions of Roach and his top officials as well. No law enforcement agency ordered the archdiocese to turn over its secret files or launched a criminal investigation into its actions.
After the Adamson scandal, Roach promised to create tough policies, reach out to victims and report abuse allegations to police. Privately, he carried on much as he had before, secretly transferring offenders from one parish to the next.
Newspapers hailed the policies as evidence that Roach was serious about protecting children. No one appeared to notice that the policies became less strict over time.
The archdiocese's policy in 1988 required abusive priests to receive years of treatment and prohibited any return to ministry that involved contact with children. By 1992, the archdiocese's policy had changed to allow abusive priests to return to parish ministry in some cases. It said that "the archdiocese will see that there is a proper level of disclosure of the person's history in the ministerial setting."
Friends rally around accused priest
No priest was better protected by powerful men than the Rev. Gilbert Gustafson, who served at St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake. The priest had befriended parishioners Jeff and Cheryl Herrity and then sexually abused their son, Brian.
When the parents found out in 1982, they reported it to the archdiocese. Roach didn't call police. Neither did an archdiocese-approved therapist. Police didn't learn of the abuse until the family sought help from an outside counselor. The boy told police that the abuse began when he was about 10 or 11 years old and ended when he was 15.
Gustafson pleaded guilty in 1983.
More than 20 priests packed the courtroom to show their support. Brian and his parents sat by themselves on the other side of the room.
When the judge sentenced Gustafson to six months in jail, some of the priests wept and rushed over to hug Gustafson and pray.
No one comforted Brian or his parents.
"That was one of the most painful scenes that I've been a part of," Brian's mother said recently.
After the conviction, Gustafson's colleagues stayed loyal.
"I am confident that Gil has moved to a condition of strength in his understanding of himself, his sexuality, his needs," the Rev. Stephen Adrian told Roach in a 1985 letter. "I find it very easy to recommend him as a priest."
Boxleitner, the director of Catholic Charities who was later accused of sexually abusing students at the St. Paul seminary, offered Gustafson a job as a community outreach director. Roach approved the assignment in May 1986.
Schoener, the archdiocese-approved therapist, praised Gustafson. "Among pedophiles he has exceptional insight and also takes clear responsibility for his actions to a degree which is, frankly, rare and refreshing," he wrote in 1989.
Feeling emboldened by all the praise and attention, Gustafson wrote a curious letter to Roach in 1989. "Let me say first of all that I believe that one of the most powerful resources I bring to ministry is my history as a sex offender," he wrote.
He explained that he wanted to help the archdiocese "formulate policy and procedure regarding criminal sexuality" and offered to counsel other abusers. Gustafson later suggested he could work as a "shadow researcher" to help the archdiocese respond to sexual abuse victims.
Chancellor Kevin McDonough wrote that perhaps Gustafson could "serve as a sort of 'executive coordinator' for clergy sexual abuse cases. He would develop a master calendar for follow up with priests, victims, and so on."
Roach rejected those suggestions but decided to give Gustafson monthly disability payments so that Catholic Charities wouldn't have to pay his salary. McDonough explained in a private memo that the arrangement "provided both of our institutions with a certain 'deniability,' so that we could use his gifts without having to confront the concerns and even prejudice in the minds of some."
Meanwhile, the Herrity family struggled. Brian's classmates at Hill-Murray High School ridiculed him for having sex with a priest. The bullying got so bad that he transferred to a public school. The family stopped attending Mass.
Brian turned to drugs and alcohol and sought comfort in anonymous sexual encounters with men. In his mid-20s, he was diagnosed as HIV-positive.
"I watched my son, who was a loving little boy who used to get on my lap and watch football and giggle and just very innocent, go from that to something I couldn't even explain," Jeff Herrity said in a recent interview. "They murdered my child."
When Brian fell ill, he moved back into his old bedroom and made a tape recording. "Hi, my name is Brian Herrity and the reason why I'm making this tape is because I know I'm dying of AIDS," he said softly into the microphone. "And I feel a little awkward doing this but I hope that in the future, whoever happens to come across this tape and maybe if God puts this tape in your life for a reason that it will have some impact on somebody else's life."
He continued, "At 14 years old, well, I'd seen a lot of life. I'd been sexually abused by a Catholic priest for five years...torn up in court systems, left feeling even lonelier than I'd started."
It wasn't until Nov. 30, 1994 — more than a decade after Gustafson's conviction — that Roach agreed to meet with Brian.
The archbishop described the meeting in a memo. "The principal thing that he is concerned about is that he feels that his life could have taken a different turn had he not been abused, and he wanted to say that. I listened to that and I think we had a good conversation.
"My guess is that that closes the chapter on this. His is a very sad story."
Brian Herrity died the following year. He was 28.
One case leads to an onslaught
Between 1985 and 1992, the U.S. Catholic Church had weathered two national abuse scandals — the Gauthe case in Lafayette and the Adamson case in St. Paul. Meanwhile, dozens of smaller scandals were erupting in dioceses across the country.
Church leaders tried to settle cases quietly to keep publicity to a minimum. They offered regret and talked of the importance of healing and moving on. The media couldn't resist the lure of a strong narrative arc, and most reports described a church on the mend.
Then, in July of 1992, the case of James Porter hit the church like a punch to the gut.
Porter had been living a quiet life as a married father of four in Oakdale, Minn. No one knew that he had been forced out of the Catholic priesthood 18 years earlier for sexually abusing as many as several hundred children in Massachusetts. The scandal broke when one of Porter's victims secretly recorded a phone call in which the former priest confessed to some of the abuse.
On Sept. 21, 1992, sheriffs' deputies hauled Porter out of his home in handcuffs. He was extradited to Massachusetts to face 46 criminal counts for sexually abusing 32 children.
The Porter scandal led to an unprecedented onslaught of lawsuits against dioceses across the country. The news coverage prompted hundreds of victims of other priests to talk about the abuse for the first time. Victims also turned to each other for support and joined the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group whose members would later testify before the United Nations.
Bishops responded by creating a committee to review the church's response to clergy sexual abuse and appointed Roach and a Louisiana bishop named Harry Flynn to serve as members. In 1994, the committee released a report, called "Restoring Trust," that advised bishops to reach out to victims, work closely with lawyers and provide psychological treatment to abusers.
In St. Paul, Roach repeated his earlier assurances.
He found allies in the local media.
Newspapers offered a generous narrative: The Adamson case had exposed a terrible problem, which the archdiocese had worked hard to fix, and just when the church was finally healing, an old case of abuse threatened to undo the church's noble work.
It was as though the possibility that the church hadn't changed was too bizarre to be contemplated.
A front-page headline in the Star Tribune on July 4, 1992, was typical: "Abuse by clergy: Churches deal with it better, but more cases are emerging."
"As a result of the Adamson case and others like it, the archdiocese began an intense campaign to heal its clergy abuse problems," the newspaper reported. "It has now become one of the leading dioceses in the country in dealing with the problem."
The Porter scandal, the newspaper said, "was another wound at a time of healing."
No reporter cited independent sources for the claim that the archdiocese was a pioneer in confronting clergy sexual abuse. Those assurances came from church leaders, church-paid psychologists and the church's lawyers.
Search for new archbishop leads to Flynn
Anderson dismissed the media reports. Convinced that the church still harbored offenders, he worked 18-hour days to keep up with calls from victims. He filed lawsuit after lawsuit and extracted hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.
"I was a man on a mission, and I was compulsive about the need to do it," Anderson recalled in a recent interview.
Privately, his life was a wreck. "I wasn't in touch with the fact that my life was actually falling apart," he said. He got drunk almost every night, though he tried to hide it. "I became pretty grandiose around alcohol and my ability to control something that I had no control over," he said.
Meanwhile, Anderson's main target, Archbishop Roach, was about to retire, and the Vatican needed an equally strong successor who could defend the church from Anderson's relentless attacks.
In February 1994, the pope selected Flynn, the bishop of Lafayette, who had managed the country's first clergy sexual abuse scandal, to become the new archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Roach praised Flynn. "This is a gentle person, but when he digs in his heels, you better get your shield out," he said at a news conference. "He's got the proper toughness within the context of love and sharing and compassion, which I think makes for a good bishop."
Flynn arrived with a clear sense of what the church needed to do to minimize scandal and protect its priests. Although Flynn was known as a healer for his work in Lafayette, he had relied on a team of attorneys to aggressively defend the diocese from lawsuits brought by victims. No records exist that he ever reported alleged sex crimes to police.
In St. Paul, Flynn would carry on in much the same way.
"[Flynn] is a gentle person, but when he digs in his heels, you better get your shield out." Archbishop John Roach
Less than two years after he arrived, the Catholic hierarchy scored a victory that protected Flynn from scrutiny for 16 years.
The Minnesota Supreme Court decided that the state's statute of limitations had been too broadly interpreted to allow nearly anyone to sue for past sexual abuse. It ruled the law meant that lawsuits must be filed before a victim turned 24.
For most victims, the court's abrupt decision slammed the courthouse door shut.
Anderson had to watch from the sidelines as Flynn promised to kick out offenders and protect children. He suspected Flynn was lying, but without the ability to sue, he couldn't prove it.
A year after the court's ruling, Anderson entered treatment for alcoholism. While he recovered, the scandal faded from the headlines.
It would emerge again in 2002 and threaten to destroy the Catholic Church.