ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Attorneys for victims of alleged sexual abuse by priests have released the deposition of Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt to the public.
Nienstedt is head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. On April 2, he testified about the church’s response to sexual abuse allegations. It was the first time since Nienstedt became archbishop six years ago that he has had to answer these questions under oath.
The deposition was supposed to be centered around the case of a man suing the archdiocese, claiming he was abused as a teenager in the 1970s by Father Thomas Adamson. But none of the questions at the deposition focused on the Adamson case.
While the archbishop’s demeanor throughout was calm, that was not the case for the attorneys. The deposition ended with a shouting match between the attorneys for the archbishop and the victims.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents the victims, said the issue here is why Nienstedt didn’t report suspicions or allegations of abuse to law enforcement or the public in a timely matter.
He questioned the archbishop for four hours, asking about Father John Shelley, who was accused of having child pornography on his computer.
In the deposition, Nienstedt says, “I looked at those images and I could not tell whether they were adolescents or older.”
Anderson then asks, “It was a close call, wasn’t it?” Nienstedt replies, “It was, yes.”
Later in the deposition, Anderson questions Nienstedt on why he didn’t bring sexual abuse allegations straight to law enforcement — who are professionally trained in handling these types of cases.
Nienstedt says in the deposition, he did not report the images because he had been told by former Vicar General Father Kevin McDonough that they had been turned over to St. Paul Police in 2004. In fact, the diocese did not turn over images until 2012, when St. Paul Police ruled on two different occasions that the images were not children but adults.
Nienstedt’s attorney then objects, accusing Anderson of creating his own soundbites before the conversation becomes heated.
Anderson claims Nienstedt was trying to protect the Archdiocese and not the children of alleged abuse.
In another video released of the deposition, Anderson can be heard asking Nienstedt if he’s ever reprimanded or taken disciplinary action against any priest accused of mishandling child sexual abuse allegations to which Nienstedt replies, “I don’t believe so, no.” He then answers “no” when asked if he believes he should have.
Church lawyers tried to block the deposition, claiming it wasn’t relevant to the case. But a Ramsey County judge and the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed.
Officials say this is a step towards getting the top church officials to handle things differently from here on out.
“The deposition captures, that I believe, a harsh reality that the promises and the pledges made by this Archbishop and his predecessors that the kids in our communities are safe, are not true and have been broken,” Anderson said.
The archdiocese said earlier that Nienstedt explained under oath that children’s safety is the highest priority.
Anderson said that he hopes this will change the course of certain practices within the archdiocese, both now and in the future.
As for the next step, Anderson said he will be filing a motion in the next few weeks to continue these depositions, as he says he has more questions for Nienstedt that have not been answered.
St. Paul Police say they have the deposition and are reviewing it.
The archdiocese has not released any comments regarding the deposition but say they are working to be more transparent in the future.
Read the full Archbishop Deposition here.
Nienstedt On Failing To Report To Police
Nienstedt Advised By McDonough
Nienstedt On Viewing Images On Father Shelley’s Computer
Nienstedt On Failure To Discipline
Nienstedt On Father Curtis Wehmeyer
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