New Minnesota law spawns fresh lawsuits over decades-old priest sex abuse
A 51-year-old Minneapolis-St. Paul man filed suit on Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court alleging multiple incidents of sexual abuse by a priest in the 1970s. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the suit is the first of its kind since Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) signed the Child Victims Act into law, which lifted the statute of limitations on sex crimes, enabling adults over the age of 24 to sue for childhood abuse.
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson is representing the plaintiff, who has chosen to remain anonymous. Anderson said of his client, “He was suffering in the shadows. There are going to be many more [suits] to come, as they should. Now is the time for reckoning.”
Anderson’s client, known as Doe 1, has sued ex-priest Thomas Adamson, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona. The suit demands that the diocese and archdiocese to release the names of 46 priests who have been charged with “credible accusations of sexual abuse.”
Anderson saw the list of accused priests in 2006 when he was representing another plaintiff who alleged that he was abused by clergy, but a judge ordered the list sealed.
The suit states that Doe 1 was groomed and then serially molested by Adamson, who won the trust of the boy’s family. The priest allegedly began to prey on boys in the 1960s and, in a now-familiar story, was moved around by the church whenever allegations by victims and their families arose. He presided at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Paul Park from 1976 to 1979, which was when the molestation of Doe 1 reportedly occurred.
The Child Victims Act, passed earlier this month, gives victims of sexual abuse more time to report and pursue their cases against alleged abusers and the schools and churches who failed to protect them from sexual predators. Prior to passage of the law, victims could not sue after age 24.
State Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) authored the bill. The old law, he said, was unfair.
Before the Act was signed into law, Latz told Minnesota Public Radio, “We need the courthouse to be open to them when they are able to come forward. Those legally responsible — perpetrators and those that protect them — can escape justice just because of the passage of time.”
The Minnesota Religious Council, which is the lobbying arm of the state’s Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal churches, opposed the bill. The group’s spokesperson, former aide to Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Brian McClung, declined to comment to the Star-Tribune.
The diocese and archdiocese released a written statement Wednesday declaring that it has done more than its share to prevent child sexual abuse.
“Few, if any, other organizations have instituted such rigorous measures to protect young people,” said the statement. “We believe that the abuse of young people is always a tragedy, and a social problem that should be confronted by all sectors of society.”
[image of priest in handcuffs via Shutterstock.com]