(KTVI)- A supporter of Archbishop Robert Carlson has called on him to “clarify” his testimony from a recent deposition in a Minnesota case.
Archbishop Carlson was asked by lawyers for a plaintiff in a sex abuse case from 30 years ago if “you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid.”
Carlson responded, “I’m not sure if I knew or not, that it was a crime. I understand today it’s a crime.”
Critics have called the testimony “disturbing” and even “unbelievable.” St. Louis Catholic Bill Hannegan provided a statement to FOX2 News Tuesday. He questions the words used by the attorney suggesting the church leader could have “misconstrued” them.
Hannegan said, “ If Archbishop Carlson had been clearly asked whether he knew, back in 1984, that it was a crime for a priest, or any adult, to sexually abuse a child, I believe he would have answered yes, as he did when asked about a specific case elsewhere in the deposition. The actual questions he was asked did not contain the words ‘child’ or abuse,’ and so might have been misconstrued as questions about Minnesota Age of Consent laws. The sexual abuse of children has always and everywhere been a crime. I hope Archbishop Carlson quickly clarifies this confusion.”
Barbara Dorris, a long time critic of the Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse cases involving priests, said Carlson’s words were disturbing, “but his actions are downright dangerous in that in 25 years he never once called the police.” She added, “My fear is, if he didn’t do it in Minnesota, he’s not calling police in St. Louis and we have evidence of his continued putting the diocese, the secrets of the diocese,
the needs of the predators ahead of the victims and ahead of innocent children.”
Dorris, Outreach Director for SNAP (Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests) criticized Carlson for “practically identifying the family of the young victim at the Cathedral parish.” She said it has intimidated other victims into remaining silent who might have come forward in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s case against Father Joseph Jiang. Jiang is accused of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 14. His case is awaiting trial.
Barbara Dorris, who works with victims of clergy abuse through SNAP, or the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests, reacted to Carlson.
“His words yesterday, that he didn’t know it was a crime to rape a child, were disturbing, but his actions are downright dangerous,” Dorris said. “That in 25 years he never once called the police."
Dorris, who is SNAP’s outreach director, fears the same pattern has continued in St. Louis.
"We have evidence of his continued putting the diocese, the secrets of the diocese, the needs of the predators ahead of the victims and ahead of innocent children."
But Carlson's supporters see issues with the nature of the lawyers' questions. Bill Hannegan issued a statement saying:
"The actual questions he was asked did not contain the words “child” or “abuse,” and so might have been misconstrued as questions about Minnesota age of consent laws. I hope Archbishop Carlson quickly clarifies this confusion."
SNAP leaders point to some fifty known clergy predators in St. Louis. They worry these men may still have access to children.
"If indeed they have learned from their mistakes then they need to remove these men who they admit have molested children. This is wrong There is no excuse for it,” said Dorris.
In a statement released Monday, the Archdiocese of St. Louis said, "In this most recent deposition, 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. The question does not address the Archbishop’s moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense."
The circuit attorney in St. Louis is preparing to try a criminal case against a St. Louis Archdiocesan priest. He is accused of sexually abusing a minor. The case could come to trial this year.
More coverage: Archbishop Carlson accused of helping cover up sexual abuse