Archbishop Nienstedt's testimony in clergy abuse case to be released

Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt, leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, made his way through downtown St. Paul for a deposition April 2. The testimony is part of a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the mid-1970s. Attorneys for the man who brought the case say they will release the contents of Nienstedt's deposition Tuesday.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Archbishop John Nienstedt's sworn testimony about his handling of sexual abuse allegations in the Twin Cities Catholic church will be released Tuesday, according to a St. Paul victims' attorney.

Explore the full investigation Clergy abuse, cover-up and crisis in the Twin Cities Catholic church

The four-hour deposition took place April 2. It is part of a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the mid-1970s. The lawsuit claims the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by refusing for decades to release information about abusive priests. It says that the actions of top church officials continue to put children at risk.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing the plaintiff in the case and conducted the four-hour deposition, said questioning ended heatedly when he asked the archbishop to turn over the files of offending priests to police. Anderson will release video of the questioning, along with a transcript, at a Tuesday morning news conference.

The deposition marked the first time Nienstedt has had to answer questions under oath about clergy sexual abuse in the Twin Cities since he was appointed to lead the archdiocese six years ago. In 2006, he testified under oath in a lawsuit involving the Diocese of New Ulm, where he served as bishop before coming to the Twin Cities.

Lawyers for the archdiocese tried for months to block Nienstedt's deposition on the grounds that it would not be relevant to the Adamson case. But Ramsey County Judge John Van de North and the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed.

A statement released by the archdiocese after the deposition was taken said Nienstedt repeatedly stated during questioning that the safety of children is the archdiocese's highest priority. The statement added that Nienstedt has assumed responsibility for mistakes that have been made since he became archbishop.

Van de North, the judge in the case, ordered the archdiocese to turn over thousands of documents about accused priests to lawyers representing the man who filed suit. He also declined a motion by archdiocese lawyers to seal the contents of Nienstedt's deposition.

The archdiocese's former vicar general, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, was also ordered to testify under oath. McDonough's deposition took place April 16.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.