New details given in Minn. priest sex abuse case

By Stephanie Diffin
July 9, 2014

[with video]

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - New secrets are spilling out about a priest sex abuse case out of Minnesota. A series of confidential documents became public Wednesday, and St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson's name is in the paper trail.

The documents involve a de-frocked Minnesota priest, and they date back to the '80s and '90s when Archbishop Carlson was serving in Minnesota. For a time, he was among those in charge of the man accused of repeatedly abusing kids, whose name is Joseph Wajda.

"I have never abused anybody. I deny all these allegations. They're false, they're ridiculous," Wajda told a KARE 11 reporter, our sister station in Minnesota, in December.

According to the documents released Wednesday, Wajda repeatedly denied allegations that he forced kids to get naked and brushed against them inappropriately, among other accusations. His repeated denial is recorded throughout the documents, including in a memo from Archbishop Carlson in 1987.

The paper trail shows Carlson was among those who questioned Wajda after learning about some of the accusations in 1981.

Jump to nine years later, in 1989, when an accusation of abuse had been reported to police by a different priest, Father Kevin McDonough.

In a memo, McDonough noted the detective in the case "… like Father O'Connell and I, second guessed our decision not to bring this information to the police back in January, 1989, when we had specific evidence of […] inappropriate activity on the part of Father Wajda."

Months later, Carlson was helping decide where to place Wajda. He wrote, "I am convinced that the (REDACTED) case will go to court and there will be some publicity associated with that…" He goes on to say Wajda should serve as co-pastor at his next parish stating, "I would oppose Joe Wajda being placed at Blessed Sacrament alone in the responsibility as Administrator or Pastor."

Before Wajda was placed at Blessed Sacrament, a different parish rejected him. A parishioner from that church later wrote to the Archbishop at the time, John Roach, that he was afraid the Archdiocese was mishandling the situation.

The documents were released as part of evidence in a lawsuit involving a different former Minnesota priest, Thomas Adamson.

The St. Louis Archdiocese has released a statement in response to the information surrounding this case, stating, "The pending case, which is in St. Paul-Minneapolis, alleges abuse in the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis decades ago by a former priest. Neither the Archdiocese of St. Louis nor Archbishop Carlson are parties to the lawsuit. Archbishop Carlson was a priest of that archdiocese at the time of the alleged occurrences, and had given testimony several times many years ago about the same allegedly abusive former priest. All media inquiries about this Minnesota case should be directed to the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis encourages all persons with reports of misconduct with a minor involving a member of the clergy or other church personnel to contact Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of Child and Youth Protection, at 314.792.7704, the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800.392.3738, or law enforcement officials."


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