St. Louis archbishop claims statement on sex abuse taken out of context

By Dennis Coday
National Catholic Reporter
June 11, 2014

The Minnesota lawyer who released the deposition of St. Louis' archbishop this week took the archbishop's response to a question "out of context and suggested that the Archbishop did not know that it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child. Nothing could be further from the truth," says a statement the archdiocese released this morning.

"Recent inaccurate and misleading reporting by certain media outlets has impugned Archbishop Carlson's good name and reputation," the statement says.

A full reading of the deposition shows that Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis was responding not to a general question about the sexual abuse of children but to a question about a specific point of Minnesota law -- mandatory reporting laws -- when he said, "I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime."

"In the deposition video, which was released by Plaintiff's counsel, the dialogue between Plaintiff's counsel and Archbishop Carlson focused on Archbishop Carlson's knowledge of Minnesota child abuse reporting statutes and when clergy became mandatory reporters," the archdiocesan statement says.

The deposition was taken for a law suit against the St. Paul-Minneapolis and Winnona, Minn., dioceses. Carlson was questioned because he was auxiliary bishop in St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1984-1994. Neither Carlson nor the St. Louis archdiocese is a party to this case.

"In the full transcript of Archbishop Carlson's deposition, the actual exchange between Archbishop Carlson and Plaintiff's counsel is quite different from what is being widely reported in the media," the statement from the St. Louis archdiocese says.

"Charles Goldberg, attorney representing Archbishop Carlson at this deposition, explained that while current Minnesota law makes it a crime for clergy persons not to report suspected child abuse, that statute did not become effective until 1988. What Plaintiff's counsel has failed to point out to the media is that Mr. Goldberg himself noted at this point in the deposition 'you're talking about mandatory reporting?' [emphasis added]. When the Archbishop said 'I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,' he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse," the statement says.

"Contrary to what is being reported, Archbishop Carlson is and has been a leader in the Church when it comes to recognizing and managing matters of sexual abuse involving the clergy," the statement says. The statement notes that one of the exhibits in the current case is a memo then-Father Carlson wrote in 1980 about a priest's abusive actions, saying "This behavior cannot be tolerated."

The statement from the archdiocese this morning also took exception to media reports and subsequent commentary about Carlson's repeated claims not to remember answers to questions posed by the plaintiff's lawyer, Jeffery Anderson, which prompted Anderson to ask if there was any physical condition or illness that was impeding Carlson's memory.

The deposition also shows Goldberg objecting to Anderson on this point, saying, "If you want to ask [Carlson] about these things and get specific answers, he needs to see these documents, because no human being can be expected to remember, regardless of how outrageous some of these matters may have appeared, to explain in detail those things to you without a reference to these depositions 25 to 30 years ago."

The archbishop was being questioned about five depositions Anderson had taken of Carlson in the 1980s. Carlson had repeatedly asked Anderson to review case documents pertaining to the questions asked of him 27 years ago but was repeatedly denied access to those documents and "is now being maligned for his inability to recall certain events," the statement says.

"The media reports of this deposition have not only called into question the exemplary record Archbishop Carlson has amassed during his more than 40 years of ministry, but has also reopened the wounds of survivors of the heinous act of sexual abuse, and has caused further pain to the Catholic Faithful, both here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and beyond," the statement says.

"These misleading and inaccurate reports have also resulted in negative commentary both in traditional as well as social media outlets. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Archbishop Carlson and the Catholic Church abhor any form of sexual abuse," the statement says.



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