Can Archdiocese be considered 'public nuisance'?

By Tom Lyden
Fox 9
July 22, 2014

[with video]

Pressure is building on Archbishop John Nienstedt to resign as the latest sexual abuse lawsuit brought against a priest makes its way through the legal system -- and it's raising an interesting question.

What's unusual about the case against Father Thomas Adamson is that the victim's attorneys are arguing that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is a public nuisance because it failed to protect children. That contention has given them pretty wide latitude in the discovery process -- but a judge is still considering that rationale even as he allows the case to move forward to trial.

"Nuisance is the anchor that we have to expose the painful truth," Jeff Anderson said.

Adamson chillingly has admitted to molesting more than 20 boys. On Monday, a Ramsey County judge decided that one victim, identified only as John Doe, deserves his day in court.

In 1975, Adamson came to St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park, Minn., from the Winona Diocese. By then, he had already molested boys and was in therapy, but the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis claims it was unaware of any of that until 1980.

"There are no documents to show that the archdiocese knew Adamson was a bad guy, to put it very bluntly," Thomas Wieser, attorney for the archdiocese, told Fox 9 News.

Except maybe for Exhibit 23 -- a 1984 letter from Bishop Watters of Winona to then-Archbishop Roach. In it, Watters writes, "I am very sorry Father Adamson's many talents continue to be compromised because of his involvement with juvenile males."

MORE: Exhibit 23 on Scribd

"As you will recall," he writes," when I asked you to consider helping Father Adamson in January of 1975, I indicated that I could no longer ask him to accept pastoral responsibility in the Winona Diocese because of this same type of problem."

Both Watters and Roach are now dead, but there's plenty of trouble left for Archbishop John Nienstedt. Last year, with crosier in hand, he said that the trouble was all in the past. Now, however, he is under investigation himself after allegations surfaced that he violated his own priestly vows by having sex with male seminarians.

Professor Charles Reid is an expert in canon law, and he says editorials like the one published in the New York Times last week calling on Nienstedt to step down have some influence, with pressure building every day. Yet, the Vatican always moves slowly.

"Remember, it is very difficult to remove an apostle," Reid said. "This is the basic, theological premise upon which the office of bishop is defined."

The Ramsey County judge will continue to hear legal arguments about whether the archdiocese can be considered a public nuisance, but the negligence part of the case is definitely moving forward. A trial has been set for Sept. 22, 2014.


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