This person couldn’t tell the truth if his life depended upon it. How does he sleep at night? What a scandal!
By Erik Ortiz
The St. Louis archbishop embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal testified last month that he didn’t know in the 1980s whether it was illegal for priests to have sex with children, according to a court deposition released Monday.
Archbishop Robert Carlson, who was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul at the time, was deposed as part of a lawsuit against the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
In a video released by the St. Paul law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, the Catholic archbishop is asked whether he had known 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 responded. “I understand today it’s a crime.”
When asked when he first realized it was a crime for an adult — including priests — to have sex with a child, Carlson, 69, shook his head.
“I don’t remember,” he testified.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing an alleged clergy abuse victim, also released documents Monday indicating Carlson was aware in 1984 of the seriousness of child abuse allegations. He wrote to then-Archbishop John Roach that parents of one of the alleged victims was planning to go to police.
Carlson’s role at the time was to investigate abuse claims. He admitted in his deposition that he never personally went to police, even when a a clergy member admitted to inappropriate behavior.
In last month’s testimony, Carlson responded 193 times that he did not recall abuse-related conversations from the 1980s to mid-1990s.
Anderson provided a report from a previous deposition in 1987 in which now-deceased Bishop Loras Watters said he advised Carlson to answer “I don’t remember” if questioned in court.
Carlson responded last month that he had “no knowledge of the discussion.”
Carlson left the Twin Cities in 1994, and eventually became St. Louis archbishop in 2009.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis said in a statement Monday that Carlson had given testimony “several times many years ago” about the same allegations, according to NBC affiliate KSDK.
“In this most recent deposition, while not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the Archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today,” the statement said. “The question does not address the Archbishop’s moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense.”
The trial against the Twin Cities archdiocese is slated to begin in September.
Faced with tough questions under oath last month, former Twin Cities archbishop Harry Flynn said at least 134 times that he could not remember how he handled clergy sexual abuse cases during his 13-year tenure, according to documents made public Wednesday.
Flynn, 81, retired six years ago. He said he didn’t have dementia or other diagnosed memory problems. “I think it has more to do with age than anything,” he said, although he noted that he has been diagnosed with cancer, pneumonia and Legionnaires’ disease.
The former archbishop said he did not report any accusations of child sexual abuse to police and doesn’t recall asking anyone else to report abuse claims, either, according to a transcript of the May 14 deposition released by victims’ attorneys. Flynn claimed no memory of a high-profile lawsuit brought in the mid-1990s by a man who said he was abused by the Rev. Robert Kapoun. The case attracted national attention at the time.
Flynn testified as part of a lawsuit filed by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson as a child in the 1970s. The man claims the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by keeping information on accused priests secret. The broad claim has allowed the man’s attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, to question archdiocese officials about decisions from the 1970s to the present. The archdiocese has also been forced to turn over thousands of internal documents on abusive priests.
Under oath, Flynn testified that he spent a lot of time outside of the archdiocese handling the national crisis and delegated authority to archdiocese attorney Andrew Eisenzimmer and then-vicar general Kevin McDonough. “It’s unfortunate that we did not pay more attention to this as a result,” he said of the archdiocese cases.
Nienstedt said under oath in April that he couldn’t remember key abuse cases and never provided complete files to police. He also claimed that McDonough told him not to write down some information on abusive priests for fear it could be uncovered in a lawsuit.
Flynn testified that he didn’t recall any similar advice from McDonough and doesn’t remember any situation in which he declined to write down information.
When first asked in the deposition, Flynn said Nienstedt “probably” asked him for the names of offending priests but wasn’t certain. Later Flynn said he didn’t think Nienstedt asked him for the names but recalled that Nienstedt “was in communication about this subject” with McDonough and Eisenzimmer.
Flynn said he didn’t recall whether he received a list of offenders from his predecessor, Archbishop John Roach. He said he didn’t know why he refused to release the names of priests “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.
Flynn said that although he couldn’t recall most abuse cases, he did recall some details about an incident involving the Rev. Joseph Gallatin, a priest who went on leave in December.
He said Gallatin touched someone on the shoulder “with his finger only” during a camping trip. It was an “inappropriate touch” but not abusive, Flynn said.
Internal records reviewed by MPR News showed that Gallatin admitted that he rubbed the chest of a teenage boy under his shirt while he slept in a bunk bed on the camping trip. Gallatin explained that he wanted the boy to stop snoring but later admitted that the incident provided sexual gratification.
Flynn said he doesn’t recall whether he investigated the Gallatin incident but doesn’t think he restricted Gallatin’s ministry at the time.
Flynn also claimed not to remember specific allegations against the Rev. John Brown, the former director of the archdiocese’s Boy Scouts program, who has been accused of sexually abusing boys in Waverly, Minn.
Flynn said he only remembered a handful of priests accused of child sexual abuse. For example, he said he removed the Rev. Jerome Kern from “active ministry” but couldn’t recall why. He said he assumes it was because Kern had been accused of child sexual abuse “because that would have been the only reason” for his removal.
Flynn appeared confused about whether abusive priests had left the priesthood. MPR News has reported that most abusers remained priests, regardless of whether they had been removed from parish ministry. He claimed that admitted abusersGilbert Gustafson, Robert Kapoun, Robert Thurner and Michael Stevens had left the priesthood.
All four men remain priests.
When Anderson challenged Flynn’s recollection of the priests, the former archbishop said he didn’t know the process for defrocking priests.
Flynn also testified that didn’t know the Rev. Clarence Vavra, a priest who admitted in the mid-1990s that he tried to rape a boy on an Indian reservation in South Dakota in the 1970s.
After Flynn claimed no knowledge of Vavra, Anderson pulled out a memo that Flynn received from his top deputy, McDonough, in 1996. It said psychological testing had found that Vavra was sexually attracted to teenage boys.
Confronted with the memo, Flynn said he thought Vavra’s ministry was restricted amid the national abuse scandal in 2002.
Wehmeyer and Shelley
Anderson asked Flynn about the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a St. Paul priest who had approached young men for sex in a bookstore and received treatment for sexual problems. Wehmeyer later pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and possessing child pornography.
The review found “borderline illegal” pornographic images, according to internal documents obtained by MPR News, but the archdiocese did not call police. Archdiocese chancellor Jennifer Haselberger discovered the images on several disks at the chancery. She notified law enforcement in 2013 shortly before she resigned in protest of the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases.
The archdiocese’s internal report found that Shelley had searched the Internet for the terms such as “blond boys sucking pics.”
Flynn testified that he couldn’t recall reading the private investigator’s report and denied knowledge of Shelley’s Internet search terms. He said McDonough told him that Shelley’s computer did not contain child pornography.
“I don’t know anything about computers,” he said. “And I’ve heard from people you can push things and things will come up, or push them accidentally.”
Anderson also asked Flynn about an abuse investigation into the Rev. Francisco “Fredy” Montero, a priest from Ecuador who returned to his native country amid a criminal investigation into whether he sexually abused a four-year-old girl.
Flynn said he thought that police had “cleared” Montero before he returned to Ecuador.
However, a document turned over by the archdiocese as part of the lawsuit shows that Flynn knew the investigation hadn’t been completed.
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates and Hispanic ministry coordinator Anne Attea explained the situation in a July 12, 2007 letter to a bishop in Ecuador and copied Flynn.
“While no charges have been filed and the child has not made any incriminating overture to the police, the case is still under investigation,” they wrote.
“Ludicrous” accusation against Bishop Paul Dudley
Anderson also asked Flynn about allegations of child sexual abuse against Bishop Paul Dudley, who died in 2006.
A man came forward in 2002 to accuse Dudley of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis in the 1950s, according to media reports. Two women also accused Dudley of misconduct. One woman claimed Dudley acted inappropriately toward her in a public place in the 1960s. Another woman said Dudley sexually abusing her when he was the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Mound, Minn., in the mid-1970s, according to a 2003 Star Tribune report.
Flynn hired a private investigator to review the allegations, according to statements by the archdiocese at the time. In February 2003, Flynn announced that the investigation found no evidence to support the claims of the three accusers. Dudley denied the allegations.
Under oath last month, Flynn said Dudley had been accused of dancing with a teenage girl and had been “exonerated.” He called it “the most ludicrous accusation that could have been made about anyone.”
Flynn did not mention the other allegations against Dudley.
The archdiocese’s clergy review board deemed the allegation unsubstantiated but recommended that Keating not mentor young adults. Flynn testified that he cannot remember whether he followed the board’s recommendation to restrict Keating’s ministry.
Former top deputies the Rev. Peter Laird, McDonough, and former archdiocese official Robert Carlson, now the Archbishop of St. Louis, also testified under oath in the past two months. Laird testified that he told Nienstedt he should resign.
In his deposition, Flynn declined to criticize Nienstedt and wouldn’t say whether he thinks the archbishop should release all information on accused priests. “I don’t get my views since I retired,” Flynn said.
There is a growing international scandal around the history of The Home, a grim 1840’s workhouse in Tuam in Galway built on seven acres that was taken over in 1925 by the Bon Secours sisters, who turned it into a Mother and Baby home for “fallen women.”
The long abandoned site made headlines around the world this week when it was revealed that a nearby septic tank contained the bodies of up to eight hundred infants and children, secretly buried without coffins or headstones on unconsecrated ground between 1925 and 1961.
Now a local historian has stepped forward to outline the terrible circumstances around so many lost little lives.
Catherine Corless, the local historian and genealogist, remembers the Home Babies well. “They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless tells IrishCentral. “By doing this the nuns telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.
“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years,” Corless recalls.
Now a dedicated historian of the site, as a schoolgirl Corless recalls watching an older friend wrap a tiny stone inside a bright candy wrapper and present it as a gift to one of them.
“When the child opened it she saw she’d been fooled,” Corless says. “Of course I copied her later and I tried to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time.”
But later – years later – Corless realized that the children she taunted had nobody. “Years after I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them.”
Surrounded by an eight-foot high wall, Tuam, County Galway locals say that they saw little to nothing of the daily life of The Home or of the pregnant young mothers who arrived and left it without a word over the decades.
In the few surviving black and white photographs taken at the site no child is smiling. Instead they simply frown at the camera, their blank stares suggesting the terrible conditions.
A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.
The report described the children as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.” The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.
Children died at The Home at the rate of one a fortnight for almost 40 years, one report claims. Another appears to claim that 300 children died between 1943 and 1946, which would mean two deaths a week in the isolated institution.
In The Home’s 36 years of operation between 1926 and 1961 some locals told the press this week of unforgettable interactions with its emaciated children, who because of their “sinful” origins were considered socially radioactive and treated as such.
One local said: “I remember some of them in class in the Mercy Convent in Tuam – they were treated marginally better than the traveler children. They were known locally as the “Home Babies.” For the most part the children were usually gone by school age – either adopted or dead.”
Because of Corless’ efforts we now know the names and fates of up to 796 forgotten infants and children who died there, thanks to her discovery of their death records when researching The Home’s history.
“First I contacted the Bon Secours sisters at their headquarters in Cork and they replied they no longer had files or information about The Home because they had left Tuam in 1961 and had handed all their records over to the Western Health Board.”
Undaunted, Corless turned to The Western Health Board, who told her there was no general information on the daily running of the place.
“Eventually I had the idea to contact the registry office in Galway. I remembered a law was enacted in 1932 to register every death in the country. My contact said give me a few weeks and I’ll let you know.”
“A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”
The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”
The certificates Corless received record each child’s age, name, date – and in some cases – cause of death. “I have the full list and it’s going up on a plaque for the site, which we’re fundraising for at the moment. We want it to be bronze so that it weathers better. We want to do it in honor of the children who were left there forgotten for all those years. It’s a scandal.”
Corless believes that nothing was said or done to expose the truth because people believed illegitimate children didn’t matter. “That’s what really hurts and moved me to do something,” she explains.
During its years of operation the children of The Home were referred to as “inmates” in the press. It was believed by the clergy that the harsh conditions there were in themselves a form of corrective penance. The state, the church and their families all failed these women, Corless contends.
But even now the unexpected difficulty that the local committee Corless has joined to fundraise for a plaque to remember the dead children suggests that not everyone wants to confront the truth about the building’s tragic past.
“I do blame the Catholic Church,” says Corless. “I blame the families as well but people were afraid of the parish priest. I think they were brainwashed. I suppose the lesson is not to be hiding things. To face up to reality.
“My fear is that if things aren’t faced now it’s very easy to slide back into this kind of cover-up again. I want the truth out there. If you give people too much power it’s dangerous.”
Living and dying in a culture of shame and silence for decades, the Home Babies’ very existence was considered an affront to Ireland and God.
It was a different time, some defenders argued this week, omitting to mention that the stigmatizing silence that surrounded The Home was fostered by clerics. Indeed the religious orders were so successful at silencing their critics that for decades even to speak of The Home was to risk contagion.
And now that terrifying era of shame and silence is finally lifting, we are left to ask what all their lonesome suffering was in aid of, and what did it actually achieve?
To donate to the memorial for the mothers and babies of The Home, contact Catherine Corless at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The secretary general of the National Confederation of Brazilian Bishops endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples in an interview published this week in the magazine O Globo.
“There needs to be a dialog on the rights of shared life between people of the same sex who decide to live together. They need legal support from society,” Bishop Leonardo Steiner said.
Steiner made clear the church still opposes marriage for same-sex couples, which Brazil’s National Council of Justice made legal last year. “The difficulty is in deciding that marriages of people of the same sex are equivalent to marriage or family,” Steiner said, adding that he believes the measure should have been voted on by congress instead of being enacted by the judiciary.
This is the first national church leader to endorse the concept of same-sex civil unions since Pope Francis said in April that there was a possibility the church could give its blessing to certain arrangements, though they would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Pope Francis himself reportedly encouraged his colleagues to support civil unions in an effort to head off marriage equality legislation when he was the head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference. The distinction that Steiner appears to be making between the “rights of shared life” and family rights is consistent with the line taken by Argentina’s church leadership that same-sex couples should be protected under property law, not family law.
Hundreds of students at a San Francisco Catholic school wore ties to class Friday to protest an administrative decision to keep the graduation photo of a female student wearing a tuxedo out of the yearbook.
The outcry became contagious as word spread across social media and support for Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory senior Jessica Urbina flowed in from around the world.
Late in the day, school officials said the events had “sparked a campus-wide dialogue which will result in a revision of policy.” The statement made no mention of changes to the class of 2014′s yearbook.
A beaming Urbina, who along with girlfriend Katie Emanuel wore a tie to school Friday, told reporters, “I’m appreciative of everything, like really I’m so frickin’ glad that my fellow classmates are rallying behind me. I’ve ever felt more love than I do right now.”
She added, “I’ve seen people with all the ties. Honestly, I’ve cried multiple times, overwhelmed with all this support, so I just want to thank everybody who’s supporting me right now.”
The senior portrait in question showed Urbina, 18, wearing a black tux, a black bow tie and a broad, dimpled smile. Her tuxedo went against an Archdiocese of San Francisco policy requiring female students to wear dresses in yearbook photos, school officials said.
It was unclear when the school made the decision not to publish the photo in the yearbook, but Urbina’s brother, Michael, and classmates started the social media campaign Thursday evening. He tweeted his support Thursday: “As a former SHC student, feminist, LGBTQIA ally, and most importantly, a BROTHER, I stand in solidarity with my sister, 110% #JessicasTux”
After hours of silence, school officials released a statement Friday afternoon: “With each of our students we strive to affirm the value, worth and intrinsic dignity of all, and to foster a supportive and nurturing learning environment. The resulting meaningful discourse and reflection on the practices and policies of the school are at the heart of our mission as an inclusive, Catholic community of faith.”
Many of the students who wore ties and bow ties of all colors – and at least one tuxedo shirt – said they couldn’t comment because administrators told them not to talk to the media, but some did express opinions.
“I believe it’s right to show herself for who she really is,” said junior Erik Wassmer as he walked between the school’s two buildings in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. “It’s sad her picture has been taken out of the yearbook.”
One student, who gave only his first name, Charles, said the administrative decision was “pretty messed up. Why would somebody be excluded from a yearbook?” he said. “Just because they didn’t wear a skirt?”
Another student, wearing a bright yellow tie, said she supported Jessica and was proud of her school. “I think it shows our school can really come together,” she said before hurrying off under the watchful eye of a school official.
The Northern California American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in on social media.
“Students shouldn’t be forced to conform to outdated gender norms,” spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer tweeted, with a photo of male and female ACLU staff members wearing ties.
Emanuel told reporters: “I support my girlfriend. I love my school, and I want to make it as good as it can be for people like us. I’d like my girlfriend to be proud of the four years that she’s been here, and I’d like it to be resolved in a way that future kids feel proud to be a Fightin’ Irish, feel proud to be who they are.”
Principal Gary Cannon said all students were part of the school’s community.
“Straight, gay, bi, transgender, all that, they’re all welcome at Sacred Heart Cathedral,” he said. “At the same time we’re going to be clear in terms of being a Catholic institution, what the Catholic Church teaches and how do we live out that faith in a meaningful way and in a supportive way with all of our students.”
Michael Urbina, 21, said earlier in the day that the school, his alma mater, simply wanted to put an “alternative picture” of his sister in the yearbook. In a statement, he said he was “extremely sad, frustrated and disappointed” by the situation. “I am embarrassed to call myself an alumni of a high school that does not equitably acknowledge, respect, value and empower all of its students.”