St. Paul archdiocese pedophile priest lawsuit may proceed

By Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
September 3, 2014

Former priest Thomas Adamson is pictured at a May 16, 2014, deposition about his sexual abuse of children.

[with video]

A Ramsey County judge has ruled that a groundbreaking lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona can proceed with a controversial claim intact.

Judge John Van de North denied a motion by the two church organizations for summary judgment on a claim alleging they created a "public nuisance" by concealing information about Thomas Adamson, a former priest accused of child molestation.

"Failing to disclose information about an accused priest is akin to, and conceivably more offensive and dangerous, than other acts that have been considered public nuisances," such as harboring "worrisome dogs" and swearing in public, Van de North wrote in his order, referring to other case law.

Thomas Adamson worked in both the Twin Cities and the Winona diocese. He was known to church officials as a suspected child abuser, yet moved from parish to parish as his alleged crimes came to light.

Doe 1 is a Twin Cities man who sued the archdiocese, the diocese and Adamson in May 2013, alleging that the priest molested him while he was serving at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park in the late 1970s. Doe 1 also alleged that the church officials created a public nuisance by harboring Adamson.

The archdiocese and diocese sought to have the nuisance claim dismissed.

Van de North refused.

"The court need look no further than Fathers Adamson and Curtis Wehmeyer as unfortunate examples of the horrendous consequences that can flow from intentional and misguided efforts to protect pedophile priests at the expense of minors," the judge wrote.

Wehmeyer was the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul when he was arrested in 2012 for molesting two young boys of the parish. He was also charged with possession of child pornography and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

"This is a breakthrough in child-protection efforts," said Jeff Anderson, one of Doe 1's attorneys.

The nuisance claim has allowed Anderson and his office to extract voluminous information about accused priests from the archdiocese and diocese, as well as sworn testimony of Archbishop John Nienstedt, former Archbishop Harry Flynn, former vicars general Kevin McDonough and Peter Laird, and Robert Carlson, formerly with the Twin Cities archdiocese and now archbishop in St. Louis, Mo.




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