Bishop's Administrative Role Hit in Old Sexual Abuse Allegations
By Denise Ford-Mitchell
January 8, 2005
Time and the legal system have not healed the wounds of a Minnesota family grappling with 28-year-old allegations of child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. Newly appointed Catholic Diocese of Saginaw Bishop Robert J. Carlson helped investigate their claims. Victim advocates say that Carlson's recommendations, as well as broken promises by other church leaders, prevented justice for the family.
Earlier this week, a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled - for the second time - that Theodore J. Krammer Jr., 38, of Stillwater, Minn., came forward too late with his civil child molestation suit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and former priest Lee D. Krautkremer.
Krammer sued in 2002 when he learned that the priest he accused of molesting him was not named in an archdiocese list of sexually abusive priests.
Carlson served as a priest/chancellor for the Minnesota diocese in 1983, when the allegations surfaced from the then-16-year-old Krammer's parents. Krammer said the incident occurred when he was 10.
Members of the Minnesota chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said that Carlson's reaction to the situation, which he was investigating with the Rev. Michael Korf, hindered justice for the family.
"Carlson was instrumental in transferring and hiding these priests when he was in charge of human resources for the archdiocese," said Michael Wegs, public policy adviser for SNAP, a national support group for clergy sex abuse victims.
"It is a sad commentary on the Krammer family's situation that this man was promoted as a bishop when one considers all the facts in this case."
The accusation is off base, said Dennis B. McGrath, communications director for the Minneapolis diocese.
"(Carlson) was never in charge human resources or moving priests. The archbishop is sole authority in transferring priests," McGrath said. "As chancellor, Carlson was the internal expert on church law - any matter dealing with Canon Laws, which include church disciplinary laws for priests."
Carlson said his recommendation of therapy and relocation for the accused priest "was pretty good for the time," though he said he now considers it inadequate. He will continue to lead the Sioux Falls, S.D., Diocese until his Thursday, Feb. 24, installation as Saginaw's fifth bishop.
"I wasn't making any decisions, I wasn't in charge and I wasn't a bishop at the time," he said. "The advice I gave back then was pretty good for the time. However, we now know it was a mistake then and it's a mistake today. I'm human and have learned some things along the way."
Carlson was ordained a bishop in 1984. Krautkremer resigned from all priesthood identification and activity in 2002.
The Krammer case is "another example of church administration rewarding" those who have participated in the cover-up of the clergy sexual molestation scandal, Wegs said.
Carlson's recommendation, cited in court documents once stamped confidential and dated Nov. 2, 1983, and addressed to then-Archbishop John R. Roach, states:
"I offered to have the boy meet with Father Korf or myself if the family thought that would help. I also offered to have an evaluation if they want to check out how the boy was handling this. They will use their own resources for this.
"Father Krautkremer admits to having an affair with someone but could not remember who it was. He also told us he had a sexual relationship with two boys 12 years ago. Father Krautkremer has gone to see an attorney for legal counsel and (Korf) and I asked him to make an appointment with a doctor for an evaluation. I told Krautkremer I would hand this over to you ... I recommend he go through therapy and move to another part of the diocese."
In court documents, Krammer and his parents said the archdiocese promised that Krautkremer would never work around children again, so the family decided not to pursue legal action.
No offenses took place in the two parishes were Krautkremer subsequently worked, church officials said.
Archdiocese officials said they offered to pay for past and future counseling for Krammer, but the family declined.
In a statement released Wednesday by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, officials said, "The archdiocese deeply regrets that in the 1980s Krautkremer was given two assignments in two other parishes (even though no offenses took place in either parish).
"This mistake was corrected in 1988, when Krautkremer was removed from parish work and assigned to serve as a hospital chaplain. His superiors in the hospital setting were informed of his abusive background and annual reviews were performed. Even this restricted assignment was terminated in 2002.
"The archdiocese is deeply sorry for the harm done to Mr. Krammer by the abuse and apologizes once again for the pain and suffering he has endured," the archdiocese's statement reads.
Not everyone is accepting the latest court decision or the archdiocese's apology.
"Our hearts ache for Ted and his family and any victim involved in priest sexual abuse court cases," said St. Louis, Mo., resident David G. Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "They're being denied their day in court because high-priced church defense lawyers claim the family should have sued instead of believing archdiocese leaders.
"In essence, a devout and trusting Catholic family is being penalized for trusting the word of church officials."
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