Deposition day for Archbishop Nienstedt in clergy sex abuse laws - KMSP-TV

Deposition of Archbishop Nienstedt in clergy sex abuse lawsuit ends abruptly

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Archbishop John Nienstedt testified Wednesday about his knowledge of clergy sexual abuse, but the deposition came to an abrupt end, according to the victim's attorney.

"It ended quite abruptly and quite heatedly," Anderson recalled.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson told Fox 9 News that Nienstedt ended the four-hour deposition abruptly by walking out when asked to turn over the archdiocese's files of credibly accused priests.

"He tried to explain he's been doing an internal review, and I said, 'You've been doing an internal review for 20 years,'" Anderson said.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese contends that Nienstedt did not "walk out of the deposition," as attorney Anderson claims. Instead, the spokesperson says the deposition had run past its allotted time.

"The archbishop responded to all questions posed to him today during the four hour time period as prescribed by Ramsey County Civil Court," James Accurso said. "The archdiocese has made every reasonable effort to meet the production schedule established by the court last week."

In a statement released Wednesday night regarding the deposition, Nienstedt also "expressed regret for mistakes made in the past."

Neither side is talking details, but Nienstedt's deposition is a response to a lawsuit filed by an alleged victim who claims he was sexually abused by former priest Tom Adamson between 1976 and 1977 when he was assigned to a church in St. Paul Park. Adamson is accused of abusing dozens of boys and was shuffled from parish to parish.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona are also named in the lawsuit, and the judge has given lawyers permission to ask about other cases as it goes forward -- including questions about whether the church helped Father Francisco Montero flee to Ecuador, where he may still be in the priesthood.

Lawyers have also been giving the green light to ask whether Nienstedt failed to report abuse allegations against Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer.

The church is in the process of handing thousands of pages of priest abuse documents to the courts -- but Anderson says the archbishop remains reluctant to turn over those files. In fact, he says Nienstedt walked when he asked the following question:

"Why not just turn over these files that you know to be credibly accused to the professionals, to law enforcement?"

Anderson says there are still dozens of pedophile files locked away in the chancery's secret archives, and he wants police to "get search warrants, seize these files."

"Why haven't they?" he asked. "Begs the question -- and why won't they begs a serious question."

Fox 9 News asked the Ramsey County attorney and St. Paul police why they haven't gone over to the archdiocese with a search warrant to simply take the files. Local officials explained that they still don't know what the church means when it says "credibly accused," and haven't gotten an answer.

Former Vicar General Kevin McDonough will be in the deposition hot seat later this month, and he may know even more about the accused priests and alleged secret payouts.

A full transcript of Nienstedt's deposition is expected to be made public in a few weeks.

ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS STATEMENT

In his deposition, Archbishop John Nienstedt repeatedly stated that the safety of children is the archdiocese's highest priority. He responded to questions about the tragedy of sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis handled this issue during his tenure. He expressed regret for mistakes that were made in the past with how the archdiocese responded to allegations of sexual abuse against clergy. He assumed responsibility for mistakes that have been made since he became archbishop of the archdiocese in 2008. The archbishop was not asked any questions about the plaintiff, Doe 1, or Thomas Adamson, the offending former priest.

The archbishop noted recent changes that have been made by the archdiocese to address how any new reports of sexual abuse will be handled. He repeated his commitment to adopt upcoming recommendations, including those of an outside expert firm that is reviewing existing procedures and clergy files.

In particular, the archbishop highlighted safeguards implemented since 2002, when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including safe environment training and criminal background checks for clergy, employees and those volunteering with children in the Church. He also discussed changes that have been put in place recently.

He observed that in the past 10 years, there have been substantiated allegations made against two men formerly in ministry as priests in this archdiocese: Curtis Wehmeyer and Francisco Montero. The archdiocese cooperated with investigators in both cases. Both men were removed from public ministry after the archdiocese became aware of the sexual abuse allegations against them. Montero's bishop in Ecuador was informed about the allegations in 2007. The Archbishop committed today to contacting the bishop in Ecuador to express again grave concern if Montero should presently be in ministry in Ecuador.

The archbishop continues to express great concern for all victims of sexual abuse of minors, their family and loved ones.

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