Priest ‘uncertain’ that abuse was a crime
ROBERT J Carlson claimed to be uncertain whether he knew that sexual abuse of a child by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The priest’s uncertainty came to light last month when he was asked during a deposition given to attorney Jeff Anderson whether he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.
Carlson, who is Archbishop of the Diocese of St Louis said:
I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it’s a crime.
Anderson went on to ask Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, that it was crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child. He replied:
I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.
Yet according to documents released yesterday by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.
In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then-archbishop of St Paul and Minneapolis — John R Roach — about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.
In a statement, Gabe Jones, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Louis, said:
While not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today.
Anderson took Carlson’s deposition as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit in Minnesota involving the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona, Minn.
The plaintiff in the case, only identified as “Doe 1,” claims to have been abused in the 1970s by the Rev Thomas Adamson at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St Paul Park, Minn.
Later in the deposition, when asked about an incident of alleged sexual abuse of a minor by another priest in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis – Rev Jerome Kern – Anderson asked Carlson:
But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?
“Yes,” Carlson replied.
Carlson went on to admit that he never personally reported any incidents of sexual abuse to the police, though he says he encouraged parents to do so at least once.
Carlson also said that even in 1996 he did not know that paedophilia was a disorder that couldn’t be cured.
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. I think we did a pretty good job. Obviously, based on some 25 years later, I would do it differently.
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.
Anderson has also taken Carlson’s deposition for a priest sexual abuse case scheduled for trial July 7 in St Louis. That deposition is under seal.
According to Anderson, Carlson was involved in handling sexual abuse cases in Minnesota for 15 years.