List of priests accused of abuse to stay private

Judge: Lawyer can have the names, but for now he can’t make them public.

Last update: April 20, 2009 – 8:38 PM

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona do not have to make public a list of Roman Catholic priests suspected of sexual abuse, Ramsey County Judge Gregg Johnson ruled Monday.

Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney who was seeking the list as part of a lawsuit he has filed on behalf of an abuse victim, had said that he was going to make the list public as soon as he got it. Anderson was given the list Monday, but he is barred from revealing its contents.

Lawyers for the church had argued that because church leaders thought the list would remain private, they had included on it everyone who had been accused, regardless of whether the charges were proven.

The list still can be used in the trial, which is scheduled to start June 1, but now hearings must be held before any names are released.

In an April 8 hearing before Johnson, Anderson argued that the list should be made public to protect children from the men, who have been removed from the priesthood but many of whom still live in the area.

In his ruling, Johnson agreed with Anderson “that the public has a right to have information regarding individuals who have engaged in the sexual abuse of children” but said such a right must be balanced with the damage that can be done from “potentially wrongful allegations.”

“The court believes that it would be inappropriate to allow plaintiff’s attorneys to publicize the names of the individuals in question until the court has ruled on the admissibility of this evidence at trial,” Johnson wrote.

Anderson, who specializes in clergy sex abuse cases, said he was disappointed by the ruling, “but that it doesn’t do anything to dampen my resolution for doing everything I can to get this information out there.

“As long as this information is secret, as long as only the archdiocese knows it, the kids in this community are not safe,” he said. “And I’m troubled by that.”

The archdiocese issued a statement: “We are pleased that Judge Johnson agreed with us that these matters should be determined at the time of the actual trial. Once the evidence is presented in the courtroom, then the judge will determine what, if anything, should be disclosed. That is all we were asking: to avoid premature disclosure that would have damaged a potentially innocent individual.”

The case going to trial June 1 involves an unnamed Twin Cities man who alleges that he was sexually abused by former priest Thomas Adamson between 1980 and 1982 while Adamson was serving at Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville.

Because the trial’s start is only a few weeks away and the list could be made public soon thereafter, Bob Schwiderski, director of the Minnesota chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), called the ruling a setback rather than a defeat.

Nonetheless, Schwiderski said he worries that any delay in releasing the list could be disastrous “if even one child is abused [by someone on the list] between now and then.”

Jeff Strickler ? 612-673-7392