Diocese releases abuse details

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — The Diocese of Winona released details Monday about 14 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, calling their decision an effort to be transparent and promote healing.

The information shows when church officials first learned of allegations against each priest. And, it shows that some clergy were allowed to remain in ministry for years, even decades, after those allegations came to light.

The information also shows that some priests went to treatment multiple times, then were returned to ministry at parishes or high schools. In two cases, the priests weren’t accused until after they died. In one case, a victim withdrew her accusation. Only two of the priests faced criminal charges.

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The information also includes assignment histories and priest photos.

“We remain steadfast to finding and telling the truth and are vigilantly committed to ensuring these unspeakable crimes against children never happen again,” Winona Bishop John Quinn said in a statement.

The names of the accused priests were published in December as part of a court order, but details about the allegations against them weren’t revealed.

The diocese said it was releasing these additional details voluntarily. But attorneys for victims of clergy abuse said the diocese had fought to keep the information under seal. A judge had ordered the diocese to turn priest files over to victims’ attorneys — who plan to publish even more details.

“To say they voluntarily did this of their own goodwill, I think, is not an accurate statement given the repeated attempts to keep this very information secret,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney for victims.

Of the 14 priests, nine are dead, two have been laicized — or removed from the priesthood — and two are pending laicization. The 14th priest was deported to his native India last month after he was recently convicted of fondling a girl.

Most of the abuse allegedly occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, the diocese said. Many of the priests were sent for treatment, and medical professionals recommended they return to ministry.

More is known about pedophilia today, and the church now recognizes that second chances aren’t an option when the safety of youth is at risk, said Nelle Moriarty, chairwoman of the Diocesan Review Board.

The diocese said no priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse are in active ministry.

Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, said that while more information on the priests and circumstances about the allegations would be helpful, the information released Monday is a positive step and goes beyond what many other dioceses have done.

“Granted they were, to some extent, forced into this by a judge’s order, but having been compelled to do it, this latest step is closer to doing it right,” McKiernan said. “Transparency is always better.”

One former priest on the list, Thomas Adamson, is at the center of a lawsuit that alleges the diocese and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis created a public nuisance by keeping the names of accused priests secret.

According to the diocese, church officials first learned of an allegation against Adamson in 1964 — 20 years before he was removed from ministry.

Adamson’s file shows that even after that first complaint, he was assigned to a high school. And despite repeated allegations of abuse over the years, he was allowed to return to ministry after treatment.

Adamson served in the Winona diocese and the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese. There were 36 allegations of abuse against Adamson in the Winona diocese, the information posted Monday says. In a court deposition made public earlier this month, Adamson admitted to sexually abusing 12 teens.

“There are no words to offer which can minimize the harm that has been perpetrated upon the youth in our Diocese by some of our former priests,” Quinn said. “It is difficult to be reminded about the crime of sexual abuse yet it presents an opportunity to heal and move forward.”