Wednesday’s four-hour deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt ended “abruptly” and “heatedly” when the church was pressed to turn over more of its files of credibly accused priests to police, said an attorney suing the church for sex abuse.
Nienstedt and church attorneys failed to deliver all the files that a judge ordered them to produce for a suit in Ramsey County District Court, and then ended the deposition when they were pressured to turn over documents to police, said attorney Jeff Anderson.
Anderson and Mike Finnegan are representing a man identified as John Doe 1 in a suit against the archdiocese, the Diocese of Winona and former priest Tom Adamson, who allegedly abused Doe 1 in the 1970s.
“The archbishop balked and refused … and they walked out,” Anderson said. “They said the time was up. We persisted that it wasn’t.”
The deposition, which took place at a private location in downtown St. Paul, was the first time Nienstedt testified under oath about decades of clergy abuse and allegations of church coverups. Anderson had called it a “a giant move” forward because previous archbishops in Minnesota had only been questioned about individual perpetrators.
Former Vicar General Kevin McDonough will be deposed April 16.
The archdiocese issued a written statement later Wednesday saying that Nienstedt was not asked about Doe 1 or Adamson.
“He responded to questions about the tragedy of sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis handled this issue during his tenure,” said church spokesman Jim Accurso. “He assumed responsibility for mistakes that have been made since he became archbishop … in 2008.”
But Anderson said church attorneys prevented Nienstedt from answering some questions and cut Nienstedt off at times. He added that “we’ll definitely be back before a judge” to compel further answers.
He said Nienstedt answered several questions and useful information was gleaned, but “far from” all of the files on dozens of credibly accused priests were turned over.
In a second statement issued late Wednesday night, Accurso said: “Contrary to Mr. Anderson’s claims … the archbishop responded to all questions posed to him today during the four-hour time period as prescribed by Ramsey County Civil Court.” The archdiocese, he added, “has made every reasonable effort to meet the production schedule established by the court last week.”