St. Louis archdiocese condemns reports on Carlson

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 | 1:16 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Archdiocese on Wednesday condemned some media portrayals of Archbishop Robert Carlson's deposition in a Minnesota lawsuit over alleged abuse by priests, saying "inaccurate and misleading" reporting has prompted unfair criticism of him.

Meanwhile, critics are calling for the Catholic Church to censure Carlson and other current and former Twin Cities bishops for the way they handled sex abuse allegations.

Carlson was deposed last month as part of a lawsuit that alleges the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese created a public nuisance by keeping the names of accused priests secret. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by a man who claims he was sexually abused by a priest in 1976 and 1977. Carlson is not a party to the lawsuit, but he served for several years in Minnesota and had a role in handling claims against accused priests from 1979 through 1994.

Carlson was installed as archbishop in St. Louis five years ago Tuesday — one day after the video deposition was made public.

He has drawn criticism after news reports about his deposition testimony said that he couldn't recall how he handled allegations of sexual abuse when he was investigating claims against priests in Minnesota; that he never went to authorities about cases involving priests there; and that he wasn't sure he was aware in the 1970s or 1980s that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

"I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not," Carlson said. "I understand today it's a crime."

That quote was taken out of context, the St. Louis archdiocese said in a statement. The archdiocese claims that the dialogue between the plaintiff's attorney and Carlson focused on Carlson's knowledge of Minnesota child abuse reporting statutes and when clergy became mandatory reporters of abuse allegations.

The archdiocese said that when Carlson said, "I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not," he was referring to the fact that he did not know exactly when clergy were bound by law to report child abuse.

As for Carlson's inability to recall details of how he handled allegations in Minnesota, the St. Louis archdiocese noted those cases were, in some cases, three decades old.

"Recent inaccurate and misleading reporting by certain media outlets has impugned Archbishop Carlson's good name and reputation," the archdiocese said.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said censure could "have a deterrent effect" on other church leaders.

"It's a key missing piece in this crisis — Catholic officials holding each other accountable for wrongdoing," Clohessy said.


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