The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Thursday, Dec. 2
For more info: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, [email protected]
A 2nd MN bishop seeks thousands from clergy sex abuse victim
A second prelate now wants thousands from alleged victim
That brings the total sought by church staffers to $132,000
Winona’s bishop says he’s owed $68,000 by Twin Cities man
(And last week, Twin Cities prelate separately sought $64,000)
Four national groups blast Catholic officials for “intimidating legal maneuver”
(Nienstedt “postpones” his maneuver but SNAP says it should be “dropped for good”)
For the second time in a week, a Minnesota Catholic bishop has filed a legal motion seeking to force an alleged victim of a predator priest to pay thousands to the church in defense costs.
Yesterday, leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, learned of the move by Winona Bishop John Quinn. It seeks $68,000 and follows on the heels of a similar request last week by Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt for $64,000.
SNAP and three other national organizations are blasting both prelates. They are BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based research and archival group, and two Catholic reform organizations: the Chicago-based Call To Action and the Dayton-based National Survivors Advocacy Coalition.
The move has been described by one Catholic official as “a routine legal maneuver.”
“In fact, it is a hardball tactic that is rarely used and always reprehensible,” said Terence McKiernan, President of BishopAccountability.org
"It is morally unjust to pay defense lawyers with church funds only to have the lawyers take actions that perpetuate secrecy about alleged child sex crimes," said Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action.
“We hope this is not a disturbing new trend among bishops,” said Kris Ward of NSAC. “If so, we strongly urge them to head back to the drawing board. Punishing victims with punitive money grabs cannot be the answer to this largest crisis in the Church's history in 500 years.”
Both bishops are defendants in a civil lawsuit brought by a Twin Cities man, Jim Kennan, who says he was repeatedly molested as a child by Fr. Thomas Adamson, who worked in both dioceses.
(On Tuesday, Nienstedt announced he was postponing his move to get money. But later that same day, the alleged victim’s attorney received formal court papers from the Winona diocese making the same financial demand.)
Last month, a judge tossed out the case out on the statute of limitations. And late last week, Nienstedt formally asked the same judge to make the alleged victim pay $64,000 to the archdiocese for its legal costs. On top of that, Quinn is seeking an additional $68,000 for his diocese.
Victims decry the highly unusual tactic, calling it “mean-spirited” and “designed to intimidate others.”
The case accuses Minnesota’s most prolific predator priest, Fr. Thomas Paul Adamson, of molesting a boy, Jim Keenan, in the 1980s at Risen Savior parish in Apple Valley. (Adamson faces at least dozen accusers, most of whom have sued and settled.) According to the lawsuit, church officials were told as early as 1963 about Adamson’s crimes. Yet they kept quietly transferring him from parish to parish without warning church members.
The civil case, filed in 2006, charges top church staff with fraud and seeks to publicly expose the names of other child molesting archdiocesan clerics.
In October, Judge Gregg Johnson sided with the church officials in October and tossed out the case. The victim is now appealing Johnson’s decision.
At 2:30 today in Winona, two SNAP members plan to hold a brief news conference outside the diocesan headquarters about the move.
The letters by the four groups, sent today by fax and e mail, are below:
LETTER FROM BISHOPACCOUNTABILITY.ORG
Dear Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Quinn,
I am writing to you today to urge that you cancel and disavow the applications that you filed in the John Doe 76C case, in which you sought to force a survivor of sexual abuse by Rev. Thomas Adamson to pay the legal expenses that you incurred in the case. By your un-Christian actions, you are adding the insult of predatory legal tactics to the injury of child sexual abuse.
My organization, BishopAccountability.org, is dedicated to achieving transparency in the sexual abuse crisis. We provide online access to statements by you and your colleagues and reports that you have commissioned, as well as court documents and news reports. Our mission is disclosure, not advocacy for a particular position in the crisis.
We are concerned that your immediate goal in filing these applications is to intimidate the survivor in this case, and that your ultimate goal is to limit the public's knowledge of Adamson's abuse and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' complicity in that abuse. The record is clear. From church documents and admissions by church personnel, including confessions by Adamson himself and statements under oath by the bishops involved, we know that the Bishop of Winona learned in 1964 that Adamson was a sex offender. The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis learned this fact in 1975. Adamson had over two dozen known victims before he met John Doe 76C, and the abuse was of the most serious kind, including forced oral sex and anal rape of a child. Yet Adamson was transferred again and again to unsuspecting parishes, including the Church of the Risen Savior in Apple Valley, in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. John Doe 76C was not the only boy who was sexually abused at that parish, two decades after the first recorded incidents of sexual abuse by Adamson.
Your decision to “lawyer up” and attack a sexual abuse victim is unkind and unwise. The Adamson cases are the worst clerical abuse cases in Minnesota history and among the worst in the country. The performance of the Winona diocese and the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese in these cases has been disgraceful. You now have an opportunity to break with your sad past, instead of choosing to give survivors of sexual abuse more of the same ill treatment.
As you know, survivor Jim Keenan has courageously come forward with his parents to condemn your actions. His parents were among the founders of the Church of the Risen Savior. For an archbishop of the church to attack such people, who represent the bedrock of the Catholic faith in this country, is unconscionable.
You have misrepresented your attack on Jim Keenan, describing it as a routine legal maneuver. In fact, it is a hardball tactic that is rarely used and always reprehensible. To our knowledge, two dioceses have never ganged up on a victim in this way before. Surely you are aware that you are both involved in this case because your predecessors, knowing that Adamson was a sex offender, engineered his transfer from one diocese to the other. Forcing a survivor to pay diocesan expenses is wrong on this occasion, just as it was wrong when Archbishop Flynn tried it in 1997, and when Archbishop Weakland tried it three times in 1993-94, and when Bishop Kmiec tried it in 2000. By repudiating this strategy, you will send a fraternal message to your fellow bishops that survivors of sexual abuse by clergy are to be helped, not attacked.
We also urge you to approach Mr. Keenan’s case in a new spirit of transparency. When he files his appeal, his goal will continue to be full disclosure of the names of priests who have molested children. Full disclosure should be your goal too.
LETTER FROM CALL TO ACTION, NSAC & SNAP
To: Winona Bishop John Quinn and Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt
From: Leaders of the following organizations:
National Survivor Advocate Coalition ([email protected], 937 272 0308)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests ([email protected], 314 566 9790)
We are deeply saddened that you are trying to force an alleged child sex abuse victim to pay $132,000 for diocesan legal costs in a clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuit. You must know that your unusual legal maneuver sends a distressing signal to Catholics who want their shepherds to act responsibly and compassionately. And you must know that it sends a depressing signal to those who saw, suspected and suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
Regardless of your intent, this maneuver will make children in the church less safe, by discouraging those with information about known and suspected child sexual abuse from speaking up.
We ask that you both promptly reconsider this move, rescind it, and publicly pledge to never do it again. We also ask that you publicly apologize to Mr. Keenan, his loved ones and your flock.
(Archbishop Neinstedt, we understand from news accounts that you have said you will suspend your effort to collect your portion of this fund for now. That, however, is disingenuous, since the alleged victim is in bankruptcy and thus his assets are frozen and you are legally powerless now to try and collect. That is also disappointing, because we believe you should abandon this hurtful move regardless of the finances of this, or any, alleged child sex abuse victim.)
Please pray hard about this, search your consciences, stop playing legal hardball here and do what’s right.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests