Archdiocese files motion with state Court of Appeals

| February 26, 2014

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has appealed a Ramsey County District Court judge’s rulings made earlier this month in a case involving the alleged sexual abuse of a minor.

The archdiocese’s appeal, filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals, seeks to overturn Judge John Van de North’s ruling Feb. 11 that Archbishop John Nienstedt and former archdiocesan vicar general Father Kevin McDonough must submit to depositions taken by the alleged victim’s attorneys within 30 days and testify about the archdiocese’s policies and procedures for handling clergy sexual abuse allegations, said Joseph Kueppers, archdiocesan chancellor for civil affairs.

The judge’s order also requires that John Brown, a 93-year-old priest of the archdiocese who was permanently removed from ministry in 2002, be deposed. He is suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease and is currently residing in a memory care unit at a senior care facility.

Additionally, 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, regardless of the merits of the accusations.

The archdiocese sought an emergency stay regarding the submission of the names, but the appeals court was not able to give it consideration before the Feb. 18 deadline, Kueppers said. The names were subsequently filed by the deadline with the district court under seal.

Van de North’s rulings stem from a lawsuit involving a plaintiff known as “John Doe 1.” The plaintiff 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.

“We are appealing the rulings of Judge Van de North because his sweeping order allows for discovery efforts that are not related to the specific case before the court,” the archdiocese said in a statement Feb. 14. The facts in the Adamson case have been well-documented in prior cases and have received extensive media coverage, it said.

“All we seek is a fair trial for all parties, and we want all parties to be required to follow the rules of court and the discovery rules in an equal fashion,” Kueppers said.

Archbishop Nienstedt did not arrive in the archdiocese until 2007 and “clearly has no knowledge that’s relevant to Doe 1’s claims from 1976 and 1977,” Kueppers added.

Father McDonough served as vicar general from 1991 to 2008. He was archdiocesan chancellor from 1987 to 1991.

Brown’s name 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 2004. The archdiocese said Brown has no information that is relevant to the “John Doe 1” case.

In addition to its concerns about the scope of discovery Van de North is allowing, the archdiocese said his ruling that the archdiocese must submit to the court any allegation of child sexual abuse by clergy since 2004, regardless of an accusation’s credibility, jeopardizes the reputations of clergy who have been falsely accused. And it could force the Church to publicize even frivolous and malicious accusations.

Van de North allowed the list to be filed with the court under seal with an explanation about why it should not be released publicly. This would not, however, necessarily prevent it from becoming public later. The judge said the plaintiff in the Adamson case could ask the court to unseal the list.

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