Archdiocese Sends Court Sealed List of Priests Accused of Child Sexual Abuse since 2004
By Madeleine Baran
Minnesota Public Radio
February 27, 2014
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has submitted under seal in Ramsey County District Court the names of priests accused of child sexual abuse since 2004, according to victims' attorneys.
Ramsey County Judge John Van de North had ordered the archdiocese to provide the names by Feb. 18. The archdiocese fought the order, arguing it would cause "irreparable harm to the Archdiocese and its clergy," but failed to convince Van de North to change it.
The latest disclosure comes as part of a lawsuit filed by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in 1976 and 1977. Last year, in the same lawsuit, Van de North ordered the archdiocese to release the names of "credibly accused" priests on an older list.
The submission of post-2004 names marks the latest development in an increasingly aggressive legal battle over the archdiocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse cases.
Victims' attorneys Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan have argued that the disclosure of the names is necessary to reveal the patterns and practices of the archdiocese. They said they cannot provide any information about the list because it was filed under seal. However, Van de North has said that the alleged victim could file a motion asking him to unseal it.
The list of priests accused since 2004 is significant because it is not limited to clergy deemed "credibly accused" by the archdiocese. Van de North, who questioned whether the archdiocese can be trusted to determine guilt or innocence, ordered the archdiocese to include the names of all priests accused.
The archdiocese continues to challenge other orders by Van de North - including an order for the depositions of Archbishop John Nienstedt and former vicar general Kevin McDonough. Victims' attorneys have scheduled Nienstedt's deposition for March 19 and McDonough's deposition for March 20.
The archdiocese petitioned the Court of Appeals on Feb. 18 to grant an emergency order to block the depositions. Statements by Nienstedt and McDonough, the archdiocese argued, aren't relevant to the Adamson case and would be used by the victim's attorneys as "a means of harassment, oppression and embarrassment to these witnesses, as well as for the purpose of self-promotion and negative publicity against The Archdiocese."
The archdiocese also protested the deposition of the Rev. John Brown, who admitted to MPR News in July that he took a "quick look" at boys' genitals out of "pure stupidity" decades ago.
The deposition of Brown, the archdiocese said, "is not being sought for purposes of this case, but simply to harass and unduly burden this elderly clergyman who has been retired since 1991 — more than two decades ago."
A spokesman for the archdiocese did not respond to a request for comment.
In another development, Dakota County Judge Kathryn Messerich has ordered St. Luke Institute, a treatment center in Maryland that specializes in clergy with sexual disorders, to release documents on Minnesota priests sent there.
The decision came as part of a lawsuit filed by an alleged victim of the Rev. Francis Hoefgen against the archdiocese, St. John's Abbey, St. Luke Institute and Hoefgen.
Anderson, the victims' attorney, said the lawsuit is unprecedented because it seeks to hold the treatment center accountable, not just the archdiocese or religious institution.
"I think it really goes to revealing the longstanding widespread practice of the bishops to use their people under their control to continue the practices of secrecy and self-protection," Anderson said.
St. John's Abbey declined to comment. The Feb. 21 order says the information must be provided within 15 days.