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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 13 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 24
I didn't know molesting children was a crime, Archbishop claims
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I didn't know molesting children was a crime, Archbishop claims

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Roman Catholic Archbishop told investigators that he was 'not sure' that molesting children was a crime when he was an auxiliary bishop dealing with allegations of child abuse by priests in the 1980s.

In a deposition given in May and released June 9, Robert J. Carlson, now Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis, was asked about how he handled such allegations when he was a bishop in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Carlson was questioned as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit in Minnesota involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona.

The plaintiff in the case, only identified as 'Doe 1,' claims to have been abused in the 1970s by Fr. Thomas Adamson at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park, Minnesota. As auxiliary bishop from 1983 through 1994, Carlson had administrative responsibilities in the diocese that involved him in the case.

Asked by the plaintiff's attorney, Jeff Anderson, whether he knew in 1984, when 'Doe 1' first began to accuse the priest of abuse, that it was a crime for an adult to have sex with a child, Carlson replied 'I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime.'

Anderson then asked Carlson whether he knew that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child.

'I'm not sure if I did or didn't,' Carlson said.

Later in the deposition, Anderson asks Carlson about another incident of sexual abuse of a child by another priest in his diocese.

'But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?' Anderson says.

'Yes,' Carlson replies.

Carlson went on to admit that he never personally reported any incidents of sex abuse to the police, though he encouraged parents to do so at least once.

Carlson also said that even as late as 1996 he did not know that pedophilia was an incurable disorder.

'I did not know that, but as a pastor, I was becoming increasingly concerned,' Carlson said.

With regard to the history of sexual abuse in the church, Carlson seemed to suggest he did the best he could at the time.

'I think in everything we do, once we've experienced it, we reflect on our actions and we ask what we can do better,' Carlson said. 'I think we did a pretty good job.

'Obviously, based on some 25 years later, I would do it differently.'

Anderson then asked, 'Don't you think you should have done it differently then?'

'I did what I did,' Carlson replied. 'I think counselors made mistakes. I think people in general made mistakes. I think the archdiocese made mistakes.

'I think if you go back in history, I think the whole culture did not know what they were dealing with. I think therapists didn't. I don't think we fully understood. I don't think public school administrators understood it. I don't think we realized it was the serious problem it is.'

Additional documents released by plaintiff's attorneys seem to contradict Carlson's claim that he did not know child abuse was a crime in 1984. In one document dated that year, for example, Carlson wrote to his boss, then-Archbishop John R. Roach, about one victim's claims, noting that the statute of limitations would expire in two years. He added that the victim's parents were considering calling the police.

According to Anderson, Carlson was involved in handling sexual abuse cases in Minnesota for 15 years.

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