The archdiocese of St. Louis says that everybody -- especially the media -- misunderstood Archbishop Robert Carlson's statements about not remembering if he knew back in the '70s and '80s that an adult having sex with a kid was a criminal act.
The comments, which Carlson made during a deposition for a sexual-abuse lawsuit filed against the Twin Cities Archdiocese in Minnesota, caused an uproar in St. Louis and was widely reported on in national media. Faced with with a daunting public-relations task, the St. Louis Archdiocese put out a statement accusing the plaintiff's attorney of taking the comments out of context, as well as everybody in the media misunderstanding the clear and blatant statements Carlson made about not remembering.
"When the Archbishop said 'I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,' he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse," says the archdiocese's statement.
Here's more from the archdiocese's press release, which can be read in full here:
In the deposition video, which was released by Plaintiff's counsel, the dialogue between Plaintiff's counsel and Archbishop Carlson focused on Archbishop Carlson's knowledge of Minnesota child abuse reporting statutes and when clergy became mandatory reporters. In the full transcript of Archbishop Carlson's deposition, the actual exchange between Archbishop Carlson and Plaintiff's counsel is quite different from what is being widely reported in the media. Plaintiff's counsel began his line of questioning as follows:
Q. Well, mandatory reporting laws went into effect across the nation in 1973, Archbishop.
Charles Goldberg, the attorney representing Archbishop Carlson at this deposition, explained that while current Minnesota law makes it a crime for clergy persons not to report suspected child abuse, that statute did not become effective until 1988. What Plaintiff's counsel has failed to point out to the media is that Goldberg himself noted at this point in the deposition: "You're talking about mandatory reporting?" (Emphasis added by the archdiocese.) When the archbishop said, "I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not," he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse (pgs. 108-109).
According to the transcript, the question of mandatory reporting laws, which require clergy to report child sexual abuse to the police, was discussed prior to the infamous video of Carlson stating he can't remember if he knew adults having sex with kids was a crime. However, the transcript doesn't appear to show that the plaintiff's attorney, Jeff Anderson, asked of Carlson about the nuances of a particular law. Here's that dialogue:
Click on the next page to see more of the transcript...
Anderson (to Carlson): Well, mandatory reporting laws went into effect across the nation in 1973, Archbishop.
Goldberg: I'm going to object to the form of that question.
Anderson: Let me finish the question.
Goldberg: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
Anderson (to Carlson): And you knew at all times, while a priest, having been ordained in 1970, it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid. You knew that, right?
Goldberg: I'm going to object to the form of that question now. You're talking about mandatory reporting.
Anderson: Okay. I'll -- if you don't like the question, I'll ask another question.
Goldberg: Well, you've asked a conjunctive question. One doesn't...
Anderson: Objection heard. I'll ask another question. Okay?
Goldberg: Go ahead.
And it's at this point that Carlson is asked about his knowledge of whether or not sexually abusing children is a crime:
The St. Louis Archdiocese published the entire deposition transcript online.
In it, he constantly evades questions about whether he reported any alleged sexual abuse to the police, saying that he doesn't remember. He also denies remembering what he thought or felt when he learned, in 1981, that Adamson had been reassigned to a parish in Apple Valley, Minnesota, despite admitting to molesting boys on several occasions.
Adamson, meanwhile, was also recently deposed and has been much more frank about his crimes, although he doesn't appear to have any remorse.
When Anderson asked him if he thinks he should have been put in jail, he answers back with a confident "No."
And, in what might provide some illumination onto why Carlson was even asked whether he remembered knowing sexually abusing a child was a crime, Adamson states that he didn't consider what he did to be illegal.
"I looked at it more as a sin, rather than a crime," Adamson says.
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