Archbishop Robert J. Carlson says back in the 1980s he did not realize that sexually abusing children was against the law. He still thinks the Church "did a pretty good job" when it came to abuse allegations.
During a deposition last month, Carlson was asked whether he knew child molestation by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”
Attorney Jeff Anderson asked if Carlson knew in 1984 that it was illegal for a priest to engage in sex with a child.
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“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson responded.
Documents released Monday by Anderson’s law firm show that Carlson was aware that child rape and abuse was a crime when he discussed the incidents with church officials during his tenure in Minnesota.
A 1984 document Carlson wrote to then-archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis John R. Roach, mentioned the statute of limitations for filing a claim of sex abuse would not expire for more than two years. He also noted that the parents of the victim were considering filing charges against the priest in question, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
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A church memo from 1987 shows that Carlson was aware that a priest touching a child’s genitalia was a crime.
“But you knew a priest touching the genitals of a kid to be a crime, did you not?” Anderson asked in the deposition.
“Yes,” Carlson replied.
The deposition involves unidentified plaintiffs who claim several priests in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area sexual assaulted them during the 1970s and 80s.
Gabe Jones, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where Carlson is the currently the archbishop, said that “while not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today.”
Carlson has admitted that he never reported sexual abuse allegations, although he says he encouraged parents to do so on at least one occasion.
He said he did not even realize in 1996 that pedophilia was an incurable disorder.
“I did not know that, but as a pastor, I was becoming increasingly concerned,” Carlson said.
“I think in everything we do, once we’ve experienced it, we reflect on our actions and we ask what we can do better,” he added. “I think we did a pretty good job."