Nienstedt submits to critical questioning over handling of child sex abuse allegations

Attorneys Mike Finnegan, left, and Jeff Anderson
Victims' attorneys Mike Finnegan, left, and Jeff Anderson, right, spoke to reporters outside the St. Paul law firm after today's deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt. Anderson led the questioning of Nienstedt. Anderson said he expects to release portions of the deposition within 30 days.
Madeleine Baran / MPR News

Archbishop John Nienstedt today abruptly ended a session in which he testified under oath about his handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, an attorney suing the church said.

The four-hour deposition of Nienstedt ended heatedly after attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the 1970s, asked the archbishop to turn over files of offending priests to law enforcement.

More: Archbishop Nienstedt answering questions in deposition today

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"The archbishop balked, and refused and as we urged him to consider doing that because it's the only safe thing for the community to do, to turn it over to police, the deposition was terminated by the other side and they walked out," Anderson said.

It was the first time Nienstedt has had to answer questions under oath regarding the sexual abuse of children by priests in the archdiocese since he became archbishop six years ago. Church lawyers tried for months to block the deposition on the grounds it is not relevant to the case. But Ramsey County Judge John Van de North and the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed.

Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt, leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, photographed on his way to be deposed Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014 in St. Paul. The deposition is part of a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the mid-1970s.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Van de North also ordered the archdiocese to turn over thousands of documents about accused priests to lawyers representing the man who filed suit against the church.

At a news conference following the deposition, Anderson called on St. Paul Police and the Ramsey County Attorney to stop giving the archdiocese "deferential treatment."

"Get that search warrant, impanel that grand jury, get those files before evidence is destroyed," Anderson said. "And in the meantime, we're turning over everything we have. We've turned everything we had to the state and now the stuff that they've just turned over to us in the last day under a court order, that we can turn over, we're turning over to them as soon as we're done talking to you."

A statement released by the archdiocese said Nienstedt repeatedly stated during his deposition that the safety of children is the archdiocese's highest priority. He was not asked questions about the man who sued the church or about Adamson.

The statement also said that Nienstedt has assumed responsibility for mistakes that have been made since he became archbishop.