Archbishop’s Shocking Deposition About Priests Having Sexual Relations With Children

Update: The Archdiocese of St. Louis released a statement June 11 to “clear up confusion generated by the release on June 9, 2014, of a videotaped deposition of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis.” It continues:

This deposition was taken in a lawsuit for damages pending in a Minnesota state court relating to events that occurred more than 30 years ago in Minnesota.  Neither Archbishop Carlson nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis is a party to this case.  Further, the Archbishop has been previously deposed by the same Plaintiff’s counsel on at least three separate prior occasions in the 1980s focused on the activities of the same priest that he was again asked about last month – 27 years later.  Recent inaccurate and misleading reporting by certain media outlets has impugned Archbishop Carlson’s good name and reputation.

During a press conference held on June 9, 2014, Plaintiff’s lawyer strategically took Archbishop Carlson’s response to a question out of context and suggested that the Archbishop did not know that it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Read the entire release here.

An archbishop’s claim that he wasn’t sure decades ago whether he knew an adult — and, more specifically, a priest — having sexual relations with a child was illegal has raised more than a few eyebrows.

FILE - In this June 9, 2009 file photo, St. Louis Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson speaks during an interview the day before assuming leadership of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in St. Louis. The St. Louis archdiocese has asked a Lincoln County judge to dismiss a lawsuit by the family of a teenage girl who claims Archbishop Carlson failed to prevent her molestation by a priest under Carlson. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File
St. Louis Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson told attorney Jeff Anderson last month in a taped deposition that he wasn’t certain he knew priest sex abuse was criminal when he served as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis during the 1980s, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Archbishop, you knew the crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid,” Anderson said.

Carlson, though, expressed uncertainty: “I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it’s a crime.”

Anderson continued his questioning, asking when Carlson first discerned that it’s criminal for adults to engage in sex and when he first understood that it was illegal for priests to have sex with children.

“I don’t remember,” Carlson answered on both counts.

The archbishop apparently said he couldn’t recall responses to the attorney’s questions in 193 separate instances during the deposition, leading Anderson to ask if there was a physical illness impeding the faith leader’s memory.

The shocking conversation can be viewed, in part, below:

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carlson did say that he knew specific contact between priests and children was illegal in relation to an alleged 1987 incident.

“But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?,” Anderson asked, with Carlson responding, “Yes.”

The deposition was taken in connection with a sex abuse lawsuit in Minnesota in which the plaintiff, known as “Doe 1,” claims to have been abused in the 1970s by a priest named Thomas Adamson.

Carlson had a role in investigating sex abuse cases when he served in St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1979 to 1994, according to WLTX-TV.

Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm involved in the case, released documents showing that, despite his inability to remember key details, Carlson was seemingly aware of the criminal nature of these acts when he was working in Minnesota, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In one letter Carlson wrote to then-Archbishop John R. Roach in 1984, he highlighted alleged abuse by the priest and said that the boy’s parents were considering going to the police.

“The boy, apparently, still sees Tom Adamson — at least according to the counselor. Because he is now 18 they are not concerned about sexual contact at this point,” Carlson wrote. “The statute of limitations does not run out for 21⁄2 years. The mother and father are considering reporting this to the police.”

Here’s a screen shot of that letter:

Image source: Jeff Anderson & Associates
Image source: Jeff Anderson & Associates

But a second note addressing the same situation goes into more detail, claiming that Adamson had admitted to the abuse and that it was recommended that he seek a criminal attorney.

“I asked Father Adamson about this and he admitted and, in fact, he had abused the boy during that period of time,” Carlson wrote. “I did not go into the sexual activity, but Father Adamson agreed that it probably would be first degree criminal sexual contact.”

You can read that letter here.

Watch Carlson discuss these letters below:

Carlson, who said he never went to authorities with allegations, admitted that certain situations were not handled perfectly and blamed part of that on the fact that therapists, priests and others didn’t know “what they were dealing with.”

“I think therapists didn’t. I don’t think we fully understood,” he added. “I don’t think public school administrators understood it. I don’t think we realized it was the serious problem it is.”

Read more about the deposition here.

(H/T: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)