Twin Cities attorney Tom Johnson, the first ombudsman for clergy abuse for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has stepped down from the role he’s held since 2018, citing health reasons.
The former Hennepin County attorney served as an independent point person for clergy abuse survivors who were reluctant to seek help from the archdiocese.
His wife, Victoria Newcome Johnson, an attorney and educator active in the Twin Cities Catholic community, will assume the voluntary position.
“The opportunity to help victims on a personal level, often being the first person to whom they disclose their abuse, has been very powerful, far beyond what I anticipated,” Tom Johnson said. “In fact, it has been an experience which opened my heart in ways that often don’t occur, particularly in the professional experience of lawyers.”
Creating an independent ombudsman was part of the 2015 settlement agreement between the archdiocese and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, which had sued the archdiocese for failing to protect children. When he was appointed, Tom Johnson said he had a personal reason for assuming the unpaid post.
“I have friends who have been the victims of clerical abuse, and know the pain that they’ve endured for years,” he said.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda called Johnson a man of integrity and compassion.
“I always knew that those turning to the ombudsperson would be well-served,” he said.
Newcome Johnson is the former assistant director of the Learning Law and Democracy Foundation, a nonprofit civics education group in St. Paul, and has worked in private practice and as a consultant.
She’s been active in restorative justice issues and at Rachel’s Vineyard Twin Cities, a ministry for people struggling with abortion issues. She is the former administrator and director of parish life at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis.
“Over the years, my personal and professional passion has centered on helping people heal from traumatic emotional experiences,” said Newcome Johnson. “The ombudsperson position, which will give me the opportunity to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse … is a heartfelt and humbling opportunity.”
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi praised Tom Johnson’s service and welcomed Newcome Johnson. Said Choi: “I have no doubt that Victoria will carry forward the work that her husband, Tom, started and nurtured and will be a valuable asset to those in need of assistance.”
Tom Johnson said he is honored to have served first in the post.
“My hope is that I helped in assisting some deeply harmed people to a safer place and that the archdiocese, with new people, policies and practices now in place, will provide the support and respect the victim/survivors of clergy abuse deserve,” he said.
The ombudsperson can be reached at email@example.com.