Archbishop Robert Carlson
Archbishop Robert Carlson
ST. LOUIS — A videotaped deposition of St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson in a lawsuit involving alleged abuse by a Minnesota priest some 35 years ago was covered extensively by media outlets after a  video clip of it was highlighted at a news conference June 9 by the plaintiff's lawyer.

The attorney "strategically took Archbishop Carlson's response to a question out of context and suggested that the archbishop did not know that it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child. Nothing could be further from the truth," a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis pointed out.

In another part of the deposition that wasn't reported in the media, Archbishop Carlson is asked by the plaintiff's attorney whether he knows a specific sexual act by a priest on a child is a crime, and the archbishop answers, "Yes."

The deposition was related to a lawsuit seeking damages in a Minnesota state court against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, and a former priest of Winona, Thomas Adamson.

Archbishop Carlson, ordained a priest for the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese, was an auxiliary bishop there from 1984 to 1994. He served on the archdiocesan personnel board and was vice chancellor and chancellor. Neither Archbishop Carlson nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis are parties of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit concerns allegations of abuse by Adamson of a minor in 1976 and 1977.

The transcript of the videotaped deposition covers 156 pages. The portion of the deposition that was highlighted by the plaintiff's attorney responds to a question about Archbishop Carlson's knowledge of whether he knew "it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid."

But the question seconds earlier, which was not included in the highlights, was about his knowledge of mandatory reporting laws. The archbishop's attorney interrupted to clarify that he was talking about mandatory reporting.

"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," the archdiocese's statement noted.

Charles Goldberg, an attorney representing Archbishop Carlson at the deposition, explained that while current Minnesota law makes it a crime for clergy to fail to report suspected child abuse, that statute did not become effective until 1988. All of the activities in this case predated 1988 by many years, he added.

Mandatory reporting laws were the subject of the questions leading to the archbishop's response.

"We were talking about child-abuse reporting," Goldberg said later. "It was in my mind, I stated in the deposition, and I certainly believe it was in the archbishop's mind, that what he (the plaintiff's attorney) was trying to ask was in the context this appeared -- when did you remember that it was mandatory for clergy to report suspected child abuse? That's the context in which this appears."

An exhibit from 1980 in the deposition pointed out that Archbishop Carlson, who was chancellor at the time, had written of Adamson that "this behavior cannot be tolerated." The archbishop has been known for decades for being on the front lines of combating sexual abuse of children, Goldberg said.

Reports about the deposition also have focused on the number of times Archbishop Carlson said he does not remember the details with accuracy. He pointed out that his notes have been turned over to courts, with more than a dozen exhibits in the case, and that he had been deposed by the attorney four times between 1985 and 1987 about the matters in detail.

"I think in fairness to the archbishop, if you want to ask him about these things and get specific answers, he needs to see these documents because no human being can be expected to remember, regardless of how outrageous some of these matters may have appeared, to explain in detail those things to you without a reference to these depositions 25 to 30 years ago," Goldberg said in reply to the plaintiff's attorney.

Archbishop Carlson stated several times in the deposition that he asked parents to report abuse to the police.

Adamson, 80, was removed from ministry in 1985 and has been living in Rochester, Minnesota. He served in the Winona Diocese from 1958 to 1975 and at five parishes in the St. Paul and Minneapolis Diocese between 1975 and 1985.

He has been accused of molesting dozens of boys. He was a defendant in the first lawsuit filed in 2013 under a new Minnesota law that allows victims of child sexual abuse to bring claims decades later. Adamson has been the focus of several lawsuits but has never faced criminal charges.

Editor's Note: The full statement from the At. Louis Archdiocese can be found at this link: The full transcript of Archbishop Carlson's deposition has been posted on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and can be found here: