Just as a reported clergy sex abuse victim was talking to the media Tuesday, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis stopped its request to make him pay $64,000 in legal expenses.
Jim Keenan, 43, known as John Doe 76C in his lawsuit, revealed his identity Tuesday at his St. Paul attorney's office. He said former priest Thomas Adamson abused him between 1980 and 1982 while Adamson served at Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville.
Keenan, now of Savage, filed suit in 2006 against the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona, claiming church officials knew of abuse complaints against Adamson but failed to act. A Ramsey County district judge threw out the suit in October, ruling that the alleged abuse happened too long ago to meet the statute of limitations.
Keenan appealed that decision. Last week the archdiocese asked District Judge Gregg Johnson to make Keenan cover its legal costs, prompting protests from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
"I can't believe what they're doing. I can't believe they can look in the mirror and say morally, 'We're doing the right thing here,'" Keenan said, fighting tears as he stood by his wife, parents and attorney Jeff Anderson. Behind him was an enlarged photograph of him in high school, standing next to Adamson.
Keenan said Adamson frequently visited his family's home and became a trusted figure before starting to abuse him when he was 12. During the news conference, word arrived that the archdiocese was changing course, citing Keenan's recent filing for bankruptcy.
The archdiocese said in a statement that it is asking the court "to delay its original motion asking for recovery of court costs ... to permit the plaintiff to work through the necessary process required in his bankruptcy."
Keenan, a licensed psychologist, said he and his wife bought a resort for autistic children and couldn't make the payments when the recession hit. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June.
He said he would pursue his appeal whether or not the archdiocese pursues the legal fees. "It's never been about money," he said.
The archdiocese tried to settle out of court, both Keenan and the archdiocese say. Keenan said he declined because the archdiocese won't make public a list of priests suspected of sexual abuse. The list remains under seal by court order while Keenan's case is being appealed.
Andrew Eisenzimmer, legal counsel for the archdiocese, said when the archdiocese learned of Keenan's bankruptcy filing Tuesday morning, it moved to delay its efforts to get legal fees, in part because of uncertainty that he could pay.
"If Mr. Keenan is bankrupt, the question should be asked, 'Does it make any sense to pursue a claim of cost against someone who is bankrupt?'" Eisenzimmer said.
Although church officials elsewhere have sought legal expenses in such cases, the amount sought here surprised Jim Richardson, an attorney and professor of sociology and judicial studies at the University of Nevada in Reno, who has written about clergy sex abuse cases. Richardson said the archdiocese's request appears to conflict with the message from Pope Benedict, who recently met with victims and apologized.
"I'm just astounded, to be blunt about it," Richardson said. "They're trying to demonstrate that they're sensitive to these issues, that they want to resolve these cases and put them behind them. I can't imagine that this would become widespread."
Rose French • 612-673-4352