“First of all, he [Nienstedt] and I would never have been in a position for much casual conversation,” McDonough said. “Archbishop Nienstedt managed largely by memo … but I don’t recall the question ever being asked about recording conversations with — between the archbishop and myself.”
A contentious back-and-forth emerged during the testimony, which attorney Mike Finnegan of Anderson & Associates characterized as showing “a consistent pattern of deny, minimize and blame.”
The testimony was critical, he said, because McDonough, vicar general from 1991 to 2008 under Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn, was “far and away the most knowledgeable person about child sex abuse in the archdiocese.”
McDonough said the archdiocese did not try to hide information about abusive priests from the police or parishioners, and added that a child’s safety is important.
“Any time a kid is hurt, my heart’s broken,” he said.
That said, McDonough didn’t support the archdiocese’s decision to release its list of “credibly accused” child sex offenders last fall.
“I don’t think lists are apt instruments,” he said. “I don’t think the world’s a better place because of that, but I do believe that disclosure has its very, very important utility …”
McDonough testified that he was aware that certain priests accused of child abuse, such as the Revs. Timothy McCarthy, Gil Gustafson and Lee Krautkremer, left active ministry but continued to work in areas that placed them among children.
In some instances, McDonough said he was unaware of key details about the men, including a doctor’s diagnosis in 1987 that Krautkremer would likely reoffend.
In the case of Gustafson, convicted of abusing a White Bear Lake boy in the 1980s, McDonough said he was unaware until recently that Gustafson had a consulting contract with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis. It did not concern him enough to notify students and parents, he said, because he assumed they already knew of Gustafson’s past.
“Doesn’t concern me much because, of course, Gustafson was the poster priest for this, his — his issues were very, very widely known,” McDonough said.
“So you think that people at Cristo Rey and the other parishes know what you know about that?” Anderson asked.
“Yes,” McDonough said.
Other topics that arose in the wide-ranging deposition:
• On McDonough’s refusal to talk with the archdiocese’s independent task force on abuse: “The archbishop never approached me and ordered me to appear before anyone,” he said, adding that his policies regarding priest misconduct already are well-documented.
• On why he did not have concerns about the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, who was caught approaching young men several years before his 2013 conviction for sexually abusing two boys outside his St. Paul church: “I was dealing with a man I thought to be an adult gay male.”
• On any regrets: “I regret, especially in the earliest years that I was working when we were still working with an outdated and now clearly dangerous assumption about rehabilitation for such men, I regret that deeply,” he said. “I feel good about the work that we were doing already by the early 1990s.”