Archbishop appears in civil suit

Published 11:11 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt abruptly ended a court deposition about his handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, an attorney suing the church said.

Attorney Jeff Anderson said the four-hour hearing ended Wednesday after Anderson asked the archbishop to turn over files of offending priests to law enforcement, according to reports.

Anderson represents a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the 1970s.

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“The archbishop balked and refused, and as we urged him to consider doing that because it’s the only safe thing for the community to do — to turn it over to police — the deposition was terminated by the other side and they walked out,” Anderson said.

It was the first time since Nienstedt became archbishop six years ago that he has had to answer questions under oath regarding the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Church lawyers tried for months to block the deposition on the grounds it is not relevant to the case. But Ramsey County Judge John Van de North and the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed.

An archdiocese statement issued Wednesday said Nienstedt repeatedly stated children’s safety is the archdiocese’s highest priority during the hearing. He was not asked about the man who sued the church or about Adamson.

The statement also said that Nienstedt has assumed responsibility for mistakes that have been made since he became archbishop. He also highlighted safeguards implemented in 2002, including criminal background checks for clergy, employees and volunteers, according to the statement.

A voicemail and email sent to the archdiocese spokesman seeking comment on Anderson’s statements wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday evening.

Adamson was ordained a priest in the Winona diocese in 1958 and served in parishes there until 1975, when he was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He has never faced criminal abuse charges, since the statute of limitations on criminal charges has expired.