Former Priest Named in First Sex-abuse Lawsuit under New Minnesota Law
By Richard Chin
May 29, 2013
A 51-year-old Twin Cities man alleges that he was sexually abused nearly 40 years ago by a priest who had a pattern of molesting children, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
The lawsuit, which also named the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona as defendants, accuses former priest Thomas Adamson of sexual battery and accuses the archdiocese and diocese of being a public nuisance for refusing to release the names of 46 "credibly accused child-molesting priests."
"Our kids remain at great peril because we do not know who these offenders are and they do," said Jeff Anderson, attorney for the plaintiff in the lawsuit identified only as "Doe 1."
The lawsuit seeks a court order to require the archdiocese and diocese to release names of the accused priests "so kids in our community and across Minnesota can be better protected," Anderson said at a news conference Wednesday.
According to Anderson, the lawsuit was the first filed in Minnesota under a law approved this year by the Legislature and signed last week by Gov. Mark Dayton that lifts a six-year civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The lawsuit alleges that Adamson, while working at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in St. Paul Park, "engaged in unpermitted sexual contact" in 1976 and 1977 with Doe 1, who was a teenage altar boy.
According to the lawsuit, Adamson had "unlimited access" to children at St. Thomas Aquinas, even though the archdiocese knew or should have known that Adamson had "sexually molested dozens of boys, admitted to molesting boys, that he committed offenses at almost every parish he served, and that Adamson was a danger to them."
According to Anderson, the "repeated abuse and sordid saga of coverup" were spread over 15 job assignments for Adamson in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities between 1958 and 1985. Anderson said 14 of the priest's transfers came on the heels of accusations of rape and molestation of children.
"The archbishop knew; the bishop of Winona knew," said Anderson, a St. Paul lawyer who has built a national reputation representing child sex-abuse plaintiffs.
In a statement, the Diocese of Winona said it "respectfully declines" to comment on the suit.
But it said, "The Diocese of Winona is committed to the protection of children and the safe environment of our parishes and schools."
Both the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said they were committed to ensuring the safety of children through implementing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Joel Hennessy, director of mission advancement at the diocese, said Adamson was removed from the priesthood about 2007 and hadn't been an active member of the clergy since the early 1980s. He said he last heard that Adamson was living in Rochester.
Adamson could not be reached for comment.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit against Adamson are that he:
-- Sexually abused a boy in Caledonia in 1964.
-- Asked two boys to undress in 1966 or 1967.
-- Tried to grab a boy's genitals in 1973.
-- Touched a boy's genitals in 1974.
Jim Fitzpatrick, a former priest, said at the news conference that he relayed reports of child sexual abuse by Adamson in 1965 to Bishop Edward Fitzgerald but that his concerns seemed to be dismissed.
Fitzpatrick said that at one point Adamson was made athletics director of a school. "Talk about putting the fox in the chicken coop," he said.
"This was a man who started abusing children before I was born," said Jim Keenan, who also spoke at the news conference. "Our life paths should never have crossed."
Keenan filed a lawsuit in 2006 alleging he was sexually abused by Adamson in 1980 or 1981. Keenan's lawsuit was filed after the expiration of the six-year statute of limitations in existence at the time, but he argued that his claim should be allowed because he repressed memories of the abuse.
In 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out Keenan's lawsuit, saying that repressed memory is an unproven theory.
Anderson said, "Even though the crimes happened years ago, the concealment of them happens to this day, and the wounds are still alive."
Richard Chin can be reached at 651-228-5560. Follow him at twitter.com/RRChin.