Ex-priest from St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese admits to abusing 10 boys

Former priest Thomas Adamson recalled at least 10 boys he has sexually abused, out of list of 38 names shared in court deposition.


Former Twin Cities priest Thomas Adamson picked 10 names of boys he sexually abused, out of a list of 38.

Photo: File photo by Jeff Anderson & Associates via Associated Press,

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The man at the heart of the clergy sex abuse scandal now rocking the Catholic Church in Minnesota matter-of-factly explained in a court deposition that he abused at least 10 boys as he moved from parish to parish from the 1960s to 1980s.

In a deposition released Wednesday, former priest Thomas Adamson testified he met his first victims while coaching basketball teams at St. Adrian High School in Adrian, Minn., in about 1961. He said he admitted the abuse to the bishop of the Winona Diocese as early as 1964 — but no action was taken to remove him from ministry or to warn parents and children.

Instead, Adamson was eventually transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1975, where he allegedly abused a man who is behind a 2013 lawsuit that has turned a spotlight on broader issues of child sex abuse in the archdiocese.

When asked how many boys he abused after moving to the archdiocese, Adamson responded: “I don’t know. I’d have to study that out.”

Adamson’s deposition is the latest in a series of depositions released by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing “John Doe 1,” the man who claims he was abused by Adamson in the 1970s at his St. Paul Park parish.

Although Adamson has been deposed many times over the years, this is the first time his deposition has been made public, Anderson said.

“This is the first time people will have a glimpse into the mind of the molester,” said Anderson.

Adamson is significant because he was the first priest sued for abuse in Minnesota, the first to go to trial and the first to win damages, said Anderson, who has sued him about a dozen times. Adamson is accused of abusing at least 37 children during his roughly 25 years in active ministry.

He was removed from ministry in 1985 and from the priesthood in 2009.

In the car, gym

The former priest acknowledged he abused teen boys over the years in school gymnasiums, his car and his home. He remembered some names but not others.

The former priest said no church official ever asked him how many boys he had abused or their names.

The abuse typically started with him spending time alone with the young men, later touching their genitals and then advancing to sexual contact, Adamson acknowledged.

He met the boys through his work at Catholic schools, churches and their parents — including mothers who sought his help with troubled kids.

Adamson, ordained in 1958, testified that his sexual urges toward boys started when he became basketball coach at St. Adrian’s “and that led to contacts.”

He said he had sexual contact with his first young man, age 14, in 1961 because “I think he was very interested in me.” Adamson said he also came to know the victim’s brother, but he didn’t remember if he engaged in sexual activity with him.

“Did you at that time …. realize, look, I’m a priest, I’m an adult, this is a kid, this is a crime?” Anderson asked.

“Never,” the former priest said. “I looked at it more as a sin than … a crime.”

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  • FILE -- Jim Keenan says he was sexually abused by Thomas Adamson when Adamson was his priest at Risen Savior Church in Apple Valley. A photo behind him shows Adamson and Keenan at Keenan's confirmation. In a deposition in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a "John Doe 1," Adamson admitted abusing at least 10 boys, but denied abusing Keenan.

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