MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A retired Winona priest is coming forward after allegations of child abuse were tossed out by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Retired Fr. James Edward Fitzpatrick of Diocese of Winona says he knew for decades his church had covered up allegations of abuse by victims.
“It’s a matter of conscience,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s been bothering me for years.”
Fitzpatrick and others are accusing retired priest Thomas Adamson of abusing more than a dozen children and the Archdiocese of St. Paul -Minneapolis of knowingly covering it up.
“I first knew about it first hand in 1965 when two sets of parents came to me at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona and told me about their sons being abused by Tom Adamson,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick kept silent out of fear of losing his job.
Adamson was later assigned to Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville, Minn., in 1981. Jim Keenan, 45, attended the church during that time and was an altar boy.
On Wednesday, Keenan had his abuse case tossed out of the Minnesota Supreme Court. His lawsuit was based on a repressed memory. Keenan says he was abused by Adamson several times between 1980 and 1981. In 2006 he sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis well outside the six year statute of limitations.
“The science of repressed memory wasn’t considered science enough to be admissible in court,” Keenan said. “I’m disappointed but I’m certainly not going to be quiet.”
If the case would’ve gone to trial, Fitzpatrick would’ve testified how the church moved Adamson around after abuse allegations surfaced. Keenan’s attorney, Jeff Anderson, also had letters written by church leaders discussing the abuse by Adamson.
One letter reads: “In the counseling process at St. Cloud, it became evident that (blank name) was also sexually abused from 1978 to 1982. I asked Father Adamson about this and he admitted and, in fact, he had abused the boy during that period of time. I did not go into sexual activity, but Father Adamson agreed that it probably would be first degree sexual contact.”
Anderson has a list of 46 priests from the Archdiocese of Winona and St. Paul-Minneapolis accused of abuse. The list was given to Anderson by church bishops, but it was sealed by a protective order. Anderson says if the case would’ve gone to trial, he would’ve made the list public.
“Two times in this case we’ve been back to court trying to get that list released,” Anderson said. “This is a public safety issue.”
Keenan says his lawsuit was never about money. What he wanted was a policy change within the church.
“I want them to live like the rest of us,” Keenan said. “I have a staff of 47; we work with children with special needs. If a staffer of mine touches a child, they don’t get to go in front of another child. My first call is to 911.”
In a statement Thursday, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said it “deeply regrets any pain or harm caused by Adamson.”
It said Adamson was removed from public ministry in 1984 and that the abuse claims made about him have been public for more than 20 years.
“We are very sorry for any mistakes made in the handling of this situation,” the archdiocese said.
The statement went on to say that the archdiocese is committed to “ensuring the safety of children and young people” by doing background checks on adults who work with minors and by training priests, teachers, coaches, volunteers and children in its schools and religious programs.