Stumping The Archbishop

By Rod Dreher
American Conservative
September 06, 2018

Above, a clip from Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, testifying in a sworn 2014 deposition in a Minnesota case involving a priest accused of molesting a child. Carlson was an auxiliary bishop in Minneapolis-St. Paul before moving to the St. Louis post. In the deposition, the archbishop answers some variation of “I don’t know” several times. Which of these was the question put to him:

  • “Can you explain the hypostatic union in 25 words or less?”
  • “Why did God let my Nana die?”
  • “When did you become aware that it was a crime for adults to have sex with children?”

You might say, “Well, which one of us could say precisely when he became aware of that obvious fact?” That would be reasonable. But the context here is that Carlson begins this clip by saying that he knows today that it is a crime for adults to have sex with children, but he doesn’t know if he always knew that.

That, of course, is nonsense. He’s being legalistic here. If he can plausibly claim that he didn’t know it was a crime, he can’t be held legally liable for not acting to stop it when it was being done by a priest under his care. The cost of that strategy is looking like a moral imbecile.


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