Archbishop Robert Carlson was once in charge of sex abuse allegations made against priests serving in the Twin Cities. Is there anything worse in major religion’s modern history than the rampant abuse of young children by pedophile priests? Perhaps this – an archbishop who claims he did not even realize it was wrong.
Carlson and his dealings with the abuse of young boys took a disgusting turn when the former clergyman from St. Louis revealed in a deposition, recently released, that he was unsure if sexual abuse of minors even constituted a crime. Carlson served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and was questioned by prosecuting attorneys who will be using his statements in at least two upcoming Catholic Church abuse scandal trials.
According to the Huffington Post on June 10, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson, in the recorded deposition, if he realized it was a crime for an adult to have intercourse with a child.
“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”
The alleged abuses occurred in the mid 80s, and Anderson went on to ask Carlson if he was aware that it is also wrong for a priest, specifically, to abuse a child in that manner.
“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson deadpanned.
Anderson used strong words to discuss the archbishop’s failings, saying Carlson's so-called oversight of sexual abuse cases consisted of “investigating and taking [sex abuse allegation] reports, and then basically keeping those reports quiet, appeasing the victims, suppressing the information, removing or transferring the priests and protecting them, to the peril of many obviously.”
Anderson went on to say that over a number of years, he has conducted 15 separate depositions with the clergyman in building cases against pedophile priests. Incredulously, Anderson reports that Carlson has simply said “I don’t know” in response to hundreds of the attorney’s pointed questions.
“Obviously you're sitting there with the priest, and he admits criminal sexual conduct to you but you say in the memo that the statute of limitations is two-and-a-half years for criminal prosecution and you write that memo to your superior, and then you say you don't remember?” Anderson says. “Come on. It's clearly a perjury in the true legal sense, but do people get prosecuted for lying under oath in depositions? Rarely does that happen. It hasn't happened in my three decades of taking depositions.”
Yet, the Huffington Post reports that “according to documents released Monday (June 9) by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.”
“I've taken his deposition 15 times, and it's always the same,” Anderson continues. “He doesn't remember anything. If it's in writing, then he doesn't remember writing it.”
In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then-archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis — John R. Roach — about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.
Anderson presses on in the deposition: “But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?,” referring to a 1987 church memo Carlson saw regarding the sin of pedophilia.
“Yes,” Carlson replied.
Carlson admitted that he never, not once, reported any of the crimes that came across his desk to the police, though he alleges he did encourage parents to do so from time to time. He also says that he was unaware that pedophilia was a disorder that could not simply be “cured” like a common sickness.
“I did not know that, but as a pastor, I was becoming increasingly concerned,” Carlson said.
He even goes on to say that he feels that individually, and on behalf of the Catholic Church, they did the best they could in dealing with rampant abuse of little boys and girls.
“I think in everything we do, once we’ve experienced it, we reflect on our actions and we ask what we can do better,” Carlson said. “I think we did a pretty good job. Obviously, based on some 25 years later, I would do it differently.”
Anderson then asked, “Don’t you think you should have done it differently then?”
“I did what I did,” Carlson replied. “I think counselors made mistakes. I think people in general made mistakes. I think the archdiocese made mistakes. I think if you go back in history, I think the whole culture did not know what they were dealing with. I think therapists didn’t. I don’t think we fully understood.”
According to Anderson, Carlson was tasked with handling sexual abuse cases in Minnesota for 15 years, from 1979 to 1994.