ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A civil lawsuit filed Wednesday by a man who claims he was sexually abused by priest nearly 40 years ago is the first to be brought since the Minnesota Legislature loosened the statute of limitations on such crimes, attorneys for the accuser said.
The lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County court on behalf of the 51-year-old Twin Cities man, identified only as “Doe 1,” and seeks at least $50,000 in damages.
The lawsuit, which also named the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona as defendants, accuses former priest Thomas Adamson of sexual battery and accuses the archdiocese and diocese of being a public nuisance for refusing to release the names of 46 “credibly accused child molesting priests.”
“Our kids remain at great peril because we do not know who these offenders are, and they do,” said Jeff Anderson, St. Paul lawyer for the plaintiff.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to require the Twin Cities archdiocese and Winona diocese to release names of the accused priests “so kids in our community and across Minnesota can be better protected,” Anderson said at a news conference Wednesday.
According to Anderson, the lawsuit was the first filed in Minnesota under a law approved this year by the state Legislature and signed last week by Gov. Mark Dayton that lifts a six-year civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
The lawsuit alleges that Adamson, while working at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in St. Paul Park, “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” between 1976 and 1977 with Doe 1, who was a teenage altar boy.
According to the lawsuit, Adamson had “unlimited access” to children at St. Thomas Aquinas, even though the archdiocese knew or should have known that Adamson had “sexually molested dozens of boys, admitted to molesting boys, that he committed offenses at almost every parish he served, and that Adamson was a danger to them.”
According to Anderson, the “repeated abuse and sordid saga of cover-up” were spread over 15 job assignments for Adamson in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities between 1958 and 1985. Anderson said 14 of the priest’s transfers came on the heels of accusations of rape and molestation of children.
In a statement Wednesday, the Diocese of Winona said it “respectfully declines” to comment on the lawsuit, because the matter is under investigation. But both the diocese and the archdiocese said they are committed to ensuring children’s safety.
Joel Hennessy, director of mission advancement at the Winona diocese, said Adamson was removed from the priesthood about 2007, and had not been an active member of the clergy since the early 1980s.
A home telephone number could not be located for Adamson, now 78 and believed to be living in Rochester. Last year the Diocese of Winona barred him from all diocese parishes and schools, the Winona Daily News reported.
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.
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