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Sex with Kids Illegal? Archbishop Carlson Uncertain under Oath

Friend of the blog Larry Kurtz criticizes the Catholic Church in stern and unforgiving language. Kurtz's venom (I don't think that's an unfair word) goes a bit too far for some readers. Occasionally, even I feel the need to tell Kurtz to cool it.

But when an archbishop says he wasn't sure sex with children was a crime, and when his bosses then lie about what that archbishop said, I feel like adopting some Larry language.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, who headed the Sioux Falls diocese from 1995 to 2005, gave a deposition last month in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where Carlson worked from 1979 to 1994. Archbishop Carlson said under oath that he does not recall whether he knew sex with children was a crime, even though documents from the time suggest Carlson knew such contact was a crime.

The St. Louis Archdiocese quickly released damage control, claiming Carlson's comment was taken out of context. The Archibishop, said the Archdiocese, was saying he didn't know if it was a crime not to report adult sexual contact with a minor to the police, not that he didn't know the contact itself was a crime.

Grant Gallicho of Commonweal reviews the deposition transcript and says the St. Louis Archdiocese is wrong. Carlson was talking about not knowing sex with a child was a crime:

The archdiocese says that the "actual exchange" started with Anderson asking Carlson about mandatory-reporting laws. And that's not false. But what follows could not be clearer. Carlson is asked whether throughout his priesthood he knew that it was illegal for an adult to have sex with children, and he said he wasn't sure--but that he understood that now. Roll tape:

Q. Well, mandatory reporting laws went into effect across the nation in 1973, Archbishop.

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question.

MR. ANDERSON: Let me finish the question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) And you knew at all times, while a priest, having been ordained in 1970, it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid. You knew that, right?

MR. GOLDBERG: I'm going to object to the form of that question now. You're talking about mandatory reporting.

MR. ANDERSON: Okay. I'll -- if you don't like the question, I'll ask another question.

MR. GOLDBERG: Well, you've asked a conjunctive question. One doesn't --

MR. ANDERSON: Objection heard. I'll ask another question. Okay?

MR. GOLDBERG: Go ahead.

So the archbishop's lawyer objected to Anderson's question, Anderson accepted the objection and explained that he would ask a different question, and Golberg acknowledged that Anderson would reformulate. Here's the revised question:

Q. (By Mr. Anderson) Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime.

Is it possible that Carlson still thought that he was being asked about mandatory reporting? Maybe. But then Anderson asks him this:

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?

A. I don't remember.

And then he asks him this:

Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a kid who he had under his control?

A. I don't remember that either.

Q. Do you have any doubt in your mind that you knew that in the '70s?

A. I don't remember if I did or didn't [Grant Gallicho, "Unhappy with your press? Give the 'out of context' talisman a try," dotCommonweal, 2014.06.11].

Gallich reports that Archbishop Carlson issued a statement Friday saying he "misunderstood a series of questions" in the deposition. "I fully understand, and have understood for my entire adult life, as I stated in other sections of this same deposition, sexual abuse is a grave evil and a criminal offense."

So why couldn't Archbishop Carlson marshal the same moral and legal certainty under oath last month? How could a man charged with parsing great theological question misunderstand the reasonably straightforward and repeated questions recorded in the deposition transcript?

Perhaps to his credit, Carlson testified that he opposed reassigning a priest facing sexual abuse charges. Carlson says his opposition provoked Archbishop John Roach to take Carlson off that case.

I won't go as far as my friend Larry Kurtz in condemning the Catholic Church. But Archbishop Carlson's legally impaired memory and the Archdiocese's clumsy covering of his mistake doesn't inspire confidence.


  1. Testor15 2014.06.15

    No matter what Carlson says, according to Roman Catholic doctrine ANY clergy sex is illegal. A BIG NO-NO. No excuses, no rationalizations, no nothing. Carlson's Catholic upbringing should have taught him this Catholic fact.
    His excuses for the abuses must have been colored by his ambitious church power rise. It appears he must have learned it at a very early stage of life. Hmmmm....

  2. mike from iowa 2014.06.15

    A person-an adult human being in a position of influence doesn't automatically know that sex with children is illegal and immoral and just plain wrong??? Seldom is the question asked-is our clergy learning?

  3. Lynn 2014.06.15

    I watched Archbishop Carlson's deposition last week and thought his excuse was pure Bullcrap to put it politely!

    Two months ago I watched the movie Deliver us From Evil from 2006 about a Pedophile Priest in California that was moved around and the Archdiocese of LA did everything they could to not accept responsibility and cover it up.

    Being raised and schooled Catholic with staunch Catholic grandparents on both sides of the family this is painful and makes me angry thinking about this systematic cover up in the Church. Then Pope Francis has dealt with Bishops living in luxury and corruption within the Vatican Bank. It makes me question my own membership in the church where I grew up in and felt at home.

    These pedophiles and those that protected and covered this up are an insult and I'm sure caused great pain to those nuns and priests that sacrificed and served in the church. Many of them with the work they have done are like heroes to me.

    My gut feeling is that the church needs to take responsibility for what has happened and properly compensate those victims and not be so focused on protecting assets. If they need to sell off assets, close a church or school then so be it. Maybe the hierarchy will finally learn and make fundamental changes within the church.

  4. bearcreekbat 2014.06.15

    The Church has even more issues arising out of the homes for unwed mothers in Ireland. Here is one writer's take on activity that makes sexual molestation of child look like a much better results for the kids.

    Further, it appears that the babies of unwed mothers were denied baptism or a Christian burial due to the sins of their ignorant teenage mothers, and living children were allegedly used to test the effectiveness of new vaccines.

    No wonder pedophile priests did not perceive their unsavory acts as particularly reprehensible.

  5. Rorschach 2014.06.15

    How do you know when Bishop Carlson is lying? His lips are moving.

    Is it possible for an educated man charged with investigating sexual abuse allegations to not know that sexual abuse of minors is illegal?! Yes, that question really is as ridiculous as it sounds.

    It is apparent to me that Bishop Carlson is a dishonest man. It's clear to me that he was part of the cover up of the sexual abuse of children. He was the "see no evil" monkey of the Minneapolis diocese in the '80s and now he's the "speak no evil" monkey of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

    This deposition has made national news and given both the Catholic Church and Bishop Carlson a lot of bad press. He flat out refuses to repent for his sins and is committing new sins by lying to the detriment of other priests' victims. His moral authority is gone. His credibility is gone. He needs to resign, and resign now.

  6. Troy Jones 2014.06.16

    I think before anyone makes a judgment one must read the entire deposition, in the context one is asking about something that occurred 35 years ago (what detail can you recall from 35 years ago and answer under oath with absolute certainty). And then be willing to apply the same standard to someone else who says under oath they don't remember, ala Hillary's post-Benghazi testimony 100 days after.

    As Cory alludes, Carlson's actual actions at that time is a lot more illuminating than what he remembers from that time. As a Catholic, I am ashamed there weren't more like Carlson back then. To criticize him for his memory while ignoring his action seems at minimum unfair.

  7. Rorschach 2014.06.16

    Carlson's actual actions back in the '80s were to report nobody to the police. Nobody! He knew of sexual abuse by priests, and his job was to cover it up and help the church wait out the statute of limitations. He was a mandatory reporter of abuse, and failed to report anyone.

    His other action in the 80's was to advise a bishop that when being deposed, the bishop should answer "I don't remember" to avoid responsibility. As I said before, this man is unworthy of the position of moral leadership he holds. He needs to resign or be fired. Go, Robert Carlson, and sin no more!

  8. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    35 years ago I had the first of 4 lower back operations,the pain was excruciating and debilitating. I was married and had one child. Even then,with all else going on,I knew sex with children was illegal. 2 years after that I had a second back operation. Sex with children was still illegal. 16 years after that I had a third back operation. The pain was even more excruciating than the first time. Sex with kids was still illegal. To this day,I remember the trauma of ruptured disks,pinched sciatic nerves,the good chance of being paralyzed from the waist down and I still remember that sex with children was and is illegal.

  9. Rorschach 2014.06.16

    This dishonest loser's job was to investigate sexual abuse allegations against priests, and he claims he didn't know sex with kids was illegal. He claims he didn't report any pedophile priests to the police because ... who knew it was a crime?

    Nobody believes that an educated priest charged with investigating sexual abuse didn't know child molestation was illegal. Everybody else knew sex with kids was illegal. It was only Robert Carlson who didn't know. Even Troy can't spin it for this POS.

  10. Lynn 2014.06.16

    Did the church hierarchy really think that if they counseled the pedophile priests and then quietly move them to another parish that type of behavior would stop? I realize there is a severe priest shortage but does the cost of losing a priest override permanently scarring even one innocent child by putting them at high risk for sexual abuse?

  11. Lynn 2014.06.16

    bearcreekbat I read that article last week and it's pretty sickening and sad.

  12. larry kurtz 2014.06.16

    kurtz just got back from Mesa Verde and just saw your post, CAH: among your best offertory. Will have some photos up soon.

  13. larry kurtz 2014.06.16

    Carlson's testimony and Bill Ellingson, my lawyer, got Bill Janklow off with a wrist-slap for killing a biker in Moody County. Still think South Dakota isn't one big, good ol' catholic boys' club?

  14. Troy 2014.06.16

    Mandatory reporting wasn't the law when this occurred. Among others, one of the benefits of mandatory reporting is it creates a safe harbor for those who report.

    Again, if you haven't read the entire transcript in context of it being 35 years ago, the existing law, and the existing prevailing belief this abominable predation was "curable," you are posting with prejudice.

  15. Testor15 2014.06.16

    Sorry Troy, I am old enough to know anyone having sex with kids in the 1950's, 1960's 1970's and 1980's was illegal and immoral.
    I remember a farm neighbor who was caught pants down being prosecuted. We were kids and did not know at the time what it was about, but our grandparents gave us instructions if anyone tried anything. Why is it, they knew what to do but a highly educated, 'moral' leader did not? I will never make any excuse for Carlson's abuse of the church rules and state laws.
    The stronger statutes were written after the cover-up abuses became known. Just think if it had been the 'Old West' Troy. Then imagine the priest and his protectors were found out by those under-educated parishioners. Carlson and his friends would not have had fun then..

  16. Rorschach 2014.06.16


    When asked if he knew in the 1970s or 1980s that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child, he said: "I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it's a crime." But of course Carlson - like every other American - knew it was a crime. Here's what Carlson knew back then:

    "In a July 9, 1984, memo to then-Archbishop John Roach, Carlson wrote that Adamson had admitted he abused a boy from 1978 through 1982, and that Adamson said the activity "would probably be first-degree criminal sexual contact.""


    Here's what Carlson wrote in 1984: "It is my recommendation, given the seriousness of our exposure, that the Archdiocese posture itself in such a way that any publicity will be minimized."

    "During the interview [deposition], Carlson said he never went to Minnesota authorities about cases involving priests -- even after one priest said he probably had committed a crime."

    Information taken from KMOV news report.

  17. Nick Nemec 2014.06.16

    Troy, sins of omission and sins of commission. Even though mandatory reporting might not have been the law when Carlson was a bishop in Minnesota every adult knew it was against the law to rape a child, just as every adult knows if you find a dead body to should report it to the police even it there are no laws requiring it.

    The reason the mandatory reporting laws were enacted was to punish enablers who fail to report what they know, deep in their correctly formed conscience, is a crime.

  18. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    Mandatory reporting wasn't the law when this occurred. For pity's sake,what a cop-out!

  19. bearcreekbat 2014.06.16

    It matters not that mandatory reporting was not a crime then, because misprison of felony was a serious crime on the books in the 1970's and 80's. Misprison of felony encompasses covering up another person's criminal activity. Here is a link to the federal offense:

    "Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

    Most states also had a similar statute on the books. South Dakota's provision reads: "22-11-12. Misprision of felony--Misdemeanor. Any person who, having knowledge, which is not privileged, of the commission of a felony, conceals the felony, or does not immediately disclose the felony, including the name of the perpetrator, if known, and all of the other relevant known facts, to the proper authorities, is guilty of misprision of a felony. Misprision of a felony is a Class 1 misdemeanor. There is no misprision of misdemeanors, petty offenses, or any violation of § 22-42-5.1."

  20. Bill Fleming 2014.06.16

    How pleasant to see bearcreekbat appear here. I enjoyed his posts for years on Mt. Blogmore. He has much to teach us on a variety of subjects, and a mind like a steel trap. Kudos old friend, even though I have now idea who you are. (Kind of like the Lone Ranger :-)

  21. Bill Fleming 2014.06.16

    Above: "NO" idea, not "NOW" idea... doh. Sorry.

  22. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    Aw geez,little altar boys and girls. We are rilly sorry your lives got messed up by a bunch of rapacious adults,but it rilly wasn't the church's fault,you see,because we didn't HAFTA report any crimes. Now run along and remember,there is nothing to see here because we didn't hafta report anything.

  23. bearcreekbat 2014.06.16

    Thanks Bill! I still recall our 500+ comment on the stem-cell thread, but it apparently is no longer accessible after the closing of Blogmore. My doctor told me about Cory's Blog and praised his research and work on it, so I checked it out and was hooked right away. Who could forgo an opportunity debate with Sibby on the open carry - stand your ground inherent conflict?

    Meanwhile, you and I also share another thing in common - I have no idea who I am! I thought I was godless, marxist, commie, liberal, but Sibby's comments seem to have transformed me into some kind of crony-capitalist!

  24. Bill Fleming 2014.06.16

    Yup, that's Sibby. He keeps changing his mind about what he believes we believe.

  25. Steve Sibson 2014.06.16

    Crony Capitalism is not conservative. It requires a collectivist system. In the case of modern day America, the political system is best explained as an Hegelian dialectic that incorporates both Democratic Marxism and GOP Fascism. Hence, we have a synthesis that contains attributes from both. Obamacare is a prime example of this Neo-Marxist/Neo-Fascist political system. The Neo-Fascists pretend they are against the system while their corporate medical establishment is making billions on government subsidized customers based on the Neo-Marxist premise of helping the poor.

  26. larry kurtz 2014.06.16

    Lee Schoenbeck, it was asked of you over at the War Toilet but the question got deleted: is Carlson a client of yours?

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.06.16

    I am happy to host Blogmore brainpower. I am not happy to host Steve's irrelevancies. From now on, Sibby, we will all take as a given that whatever we are talking about somehow reinforces your thesis that all ills boil down to a convergence of Neo-Marxism, Neo-Fascism, New Age Theology, etc. I now expect you to say something beyond that, something preferably specific and relevant to each post. Bishop Carlson, sex abuse in the Catholic Church... ready, set, go, Sibby!

  28. Steve Sibson 2014.06.16

    Sorry Cory, I will lay off on this thread. I hope the same goes to Fleming and anonymous leftists.

  29. Danno 2014.06.16

    A fond welcome to BearCreek, I've very much enjoyed reading your comments on Blogmore in the past, look forward to seeing your commentary here, although I'm only an occasional guest....

  30. Danno 2014.06.16

    PS Bear, it's not much worth trying to post on the Journal anymore, I think I've achieved the status of "most censored", about 20% of my posts actually reach the server some weeks, evidently I've offended someone there.

  31. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    Larry Kurtz @15:25-couldn't that same reasoning be applied to prevent people from suing cops for rape or extortion?

  32. larry kurtz 2014.06.16

    bear is a law scholar, mike: perhaps we'll learn more about the Carlson years.

  33. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    OT and please to forgive-is anybody over there getting hail,winds,heavy rain? Pea and marble sized hail here. Winds have been howling for about half an hour.Visibility is a couple hundred feet,maybe.

  34. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.16

    We're about 4" above normal rainfall, flooding, 70mph winds blowing down trees, etc. We are missing hail and tornadoes - so far. Temps usually in the 60s. We're still waiting for summer. Argh!

  35. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.16

    Oh yeah. No possible excuse for the shameful, sinful behavior of the Roman Catholic Church. No way to spin it Troy. I'm living here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul where all this filth happened. The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a conservative, pro-Roman Catholic paper. They don't even support the diocese in this matter any more. What they have done/are doing is reprehensible and criminal, no less than the sleezy pervert in the raincoat.

  36. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.16

    There are 2 groups my heart breaks for:

    1. Those beautifully innocent children whose lives were deformed by those bastards in backwards collars.

    2. The people who have given a lifetime of love and loyalty and trust to to those in the fancy brocade who have betrayed their faith.

    Both groups are struggling terribly. Gahhh.

  37. Steve Sibson 2014.06.16

    I thought the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood crowd would be celebrating these Priests for providing what they call sexual rights and providing health care services:

    International Planned Parenthood Federation seeks to establish “sexual rights” as internationally protected human rights. A major way they seek to accomplish this goal is by exposing children and teenagers to graphic sexual materials and teaching them that experiencing sexual pleasure is not only a human right to which they are entitled, but is necessary for their health and well-being.

  38. mike from iowa 2014.06.16

    I believe you have failed to call the victims crony capitalists or neo-fascists. What's up with that?

  39. Jerry 2014.06.16

    Neo-marxists as well, too funny, what a clown.

  40. Jerry 2014.06.16

    Here is Mr. Sibson and his posse's real goal. A christian nation led by the fundies. A theocracy that would rival ISIS in the Mid-East and just as dangerous to the rest of us.

    Every time you buy a piece of Chinese crap in a Hobby Lobby, you further the right wing oligarchs families who want to destroy the United States from within.

  41. Troy Jones 2014.06.16

    I do not defend these horrible acts, those who committed them, those who intentionally protected perpetrators. My only comment is the actual deposition places these answers in a context and do not support the impression one reads in the press. Condemn a persons acts or what they didn't do. But base your condemnation of Archbishop Carlson after reading the deposition.

  42. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.16

    Part of the point I was trying to make is that I have watched the deposition online. It doesn't help Carlson or the RCC.

  43. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.16

    That's why the Pi-Press has given up on trying to do what you are doing Troy.

  44. 96 Tears 2014.06.17

    I read the deposition and watched it. Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone must be spinning in his grave wondering why these power hungry nutjobs just can't get it right, even in the 21st Century. Maybe Pope Francis' best move is to fire these clowns, shut down the ornate buildings, sell off the centuries' accumulation of glut and gold, and return the church to its role as advocates, and not predators, of poverty.

  45. 96 Tears 2014.06.17

    ... of poverty's victims. Not "of poverty."

  46. Steve Sibson 2014.06.17

    Jerry, you opened the door with the false accusation that I am part of the reconstructionist movement to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth prior to the second coming of Christ. That is not what the Bible says.

    The real rival to ISIS is those who want a One-world political system controlling the one-world economy. That will be brought together by the apostate harlot church in the name of Christianity and unity. True fundamental Biblical Christians don't want to be any part of that. There are many who believe the Church of Rome will be that unifying force. The Neo-Marxist agenda of Pope Francis seems to be supporting that possibility. So yes, the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood crowd has more than one thing in common with the Church of Rome besides sexual immorality. It also includes coveting.

  47. Jenny 2014.06.17

    Steve, are you a preacher? What church do you belong to, (as I've always wondered), or are you your own church?

  48. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.17

    96, I'd love to see the RCC, the rich tv preachers like Osteen, and all the others give up on the ostentatious crapola. What powerful witness to live humbly and be humble.

  49. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.17

    The author of the sermon is Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber, a Lutheran pastor in Denver. She offered it at the meeting of her synod. (geographic area)

  50. larry kurtz 2015.01.20


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