Ex-priest admits to abusing 12 teens decades ago

  • Article by: AMY FORLITI
  • Associated Press
  • June 11, 2014 - 5:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — A former priest at the center of a lawsuit against the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona has said under oath that he sexually abused 12 teens as he was moved from one parish to another from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, according to a deposition made public Wednesday.

But Thomas Adamson also said during his May 16 deposition that he couldn't be sure of the exact number. And an attorney for one of Adamson's alleged victims says his records show Adamson abused 40 people — and that there are likely more who haven't come forward.

"This guy is a serial offender that was let loose by top officials over 25 years to offend against dozens and dozens of children, many of whose names will never be known," attorney Jeff Anderson said. "The numbers are staggering and the gravity of it is yet to be fully realized."

During his deposition, Adamson said church leaders confronted him about complaints over the years, but no one asked him whether there were other potential victims.

"To me, that is both disturbing and stunning," Anderson said, "in the demonstration of their desire not to know."

Adamson was removed from active ministry in 1985 and defrocked in 2009. He has not been criminally charged. His attorney, Mark Gehan, said he would not talk about the case.

Spokesmen for the archdiocese and the Winona diocese had no comment.

Adamson is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a man who claims Adamson abused him between 1976 and 1977, when Adamson was at a church in St. Paul Park.

The lawsuit is not the first against Adamson, but it is significant because it alleges the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by keeping a list of accused priests secret. Discovery in the case has led to the release of the names of dozens of accused priests, thousands of internal church documents, and the sworn depositions of church leaders.

It was also the first lawsuit filed since Minnesota changed its law last year to give victims of past sexual abuse a three-year window to file claims that were otherwise barred under the statute of limitations.

Adamson, 80, was ordained in 1958 in the Diocese of Winona. He said under oath that he began abusing his first victim — a 14-year-old boy — in 1961 when he was at St. Adrian. Adamson was shuffled around the Diocese of Winona for years, and was moved to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1975, after the family of one victim threatened to go to police. Adamson said he had requested to return to the Winona diocese more than once, but was refused.

He admitted in his deposition that he kept abusing teens until about 1982.

"I looked at it more as a sin than -- than a crime," he said in the deposition.

Anderson said at least eight top church officials had confronted Adamson about his actions — as early as 1963 — and not one had asked about other possible victims. Adamson said in his deposition that other priests serving with him did not ask why he was in treatment, or what led to his multiple transfers.

Adamson said he was urged to voluntarily ask to be removed from the priesthood — even though he didn't want to — because church leaders told him a canonical process to remove him would be public.

Adamson also testified he is currently receiving a monthly pension of about $1,650 from the diocese.

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