Disclosure process to continue following court hearing

| February 12, 2014

A Ramsey County District court judge said Feb. 11 that Archbishop John Nienstedt and former archdiocesan vicar general Father Kevin McDonough must testify under oath about the archdiocese’s policies and procedures for handling clergy sexual abuse allegations. The order also requires that John Brown, a 93-year-old priest of the archdiocese who was permanently removed from ministry in 2002, also be deposed.

Additionally, Judge John Van de North ordered the archdiocese to prepare and submit to the court by Feb. 18 the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing minors since 2004. His order requires the submission of any allegation of child sexual abuse, regardless of its credibility. Since early January, the archdiocese has argued such disclosures would unjustly harm clergy members who have been the subject of false, frivolous or malicious accusations.

In a Feb. 11 statement, the archdiocese said it wants to work with the court and all affected parties “to promote the protection of children, the healing of victims and the restoration of trust of the faithful and our clergy who are serving our communities nobly and with honor.”

“At the same time,” it added, “we strongly assert our pursuit of justice for any who are falsely accused. All of these goals are the basis for every action and decision we are making regarding this ongoing disclosure.”

The actions are a result of a case involving a plaintiff known as “John Doe 1.” He alleges that former priest Thomas Adamson, who had assignments in the archdiocese and Diocese of Winona, sexually abused him from 1976 to 1977 when he was a minor.

Van de North said the plaintiff’s lawyers must take the depositions by March 13.

The archdiocese has said previously that it remains committed to transparency as well as “prudent and ongoing disclosure.” On Dec. 5, it released the names of 33 priests, including Brown’s, that appeared on a list of clerics believed to be credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor when the list was compiled by the archdiocese in 2003. The disclosure also included Curtis Wehmeyer, a cleric who was criminally convicted of sexual abuse of a minor last year.

The archdiocese also hired Kinsale Management Consulting to conduct a third-party review of its clergy files. In late December, as a result of the file review, which remains in process, the archdiocese publicly disclosed the names of two priests, one of whom had a single boundary violation and another who had more than one boundary violation. Both agreed to take leaves of absence to allow for a complete review. They remain out of active ministry until the reviews are complete.

At the Feb. 11 hearing, the archdiocese expressed concerns that it raised previously in a letter last month to Van de North. The letter stated that the judge’s order, as written, would require the archdiocese to disclose the names of clergy “merely accused” of sexual abuse of minors after 2004, regardless of the merits of an accusation. This could jeopardize the reputations of those falsely accused and force the Church to publicize even frivolous and malicious accusations, the archdiocese said.

Van de North said the list could be filed with the court “under seal” with an explanation about why it should not be released publicly, but it could be made public through a later court proceeding. The judge said the plaintiff in the Adamson case could ask the court to unseal the list.

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