St. Louis archdiocese critical of reports on Carlson deposition

June 11, 2014

[with video]

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis archdiocese is condemning media reports of Archbishop Robert Carlson’s deposition in a Minnesota lawsuit.

Carlson was deposed last month in a suit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Carlson served there for years and had a role in handling claims against accused priests from 1979 through 1994

Media reports of the deposition, made public Monday, quoted him as saying that he wasn’t sure he knew in the 1970s or 1980s that sex with a child was criminal.

The St. Louis archdiocese says the dialogue involved Carlson’s knowledge of Minnesota child abuse reporting statutes, and when clergy became mandatory reporters of abuse allegations—not the legality of sex with a child.

During the interview, Carlson said he never went to Minnesota authorities after one priest said he probably had committed a crime.

Meanwhile, critics are calling for other bishops to censure Carlson and others for the way Minnesota cases were handled.

The St. Louis archdiocese released a statement saying Carlson has given testimony about this priest several times, years ago, and "while not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the Archbishop did make it clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today."

"The question does not address the Archbishop's moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense," the St. Louis archdiocese said.

The St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese had no comment.

Carlson, who is not a party to the lawsuit, was deposed as part of a case that alleges the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese created a public nuisance by keeping the names of accused priests secret. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by a man who claims he was sexually abused the former Rev. Thomas Adamson between 1976 and 1977, when Adamson was at a church in St. Paul Park.

Throughout the three-and-a-half hour deposition, Carlson repeatedly said he didn't remember details about his investigations.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the plaintiff, said Carlson claimed he didn't remember on 193 occasions. Anderson said he is disturbed by the "purposeful deceit."

Anderson referred to several church documents to shed light on how cases were handled. In a July 9, 1984, memo to then-Archbishop John Roach, Carlson wrote that Adamson had admitted he abused a boy from 1978 through 1982, and that Adamson said the activity "would probably be first-degree criminal sexual contact."

"It is my recommendation, given the seriousness of our exposure, that the Archdiocese posture itself in such a way that any publicity will be minimized," Carlson wrote.

When asked about that recommendation, Carlson said: "Obviously, based on some 25 years later, I would do it differently."

Carlson left Minnesota in 1994 and served as bishop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Saginaw, Michigan, before becoming St. Louis archbishop in 2009.

(Watch video of the deposition below or click here if using a mobile device)


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