Archbishop Robert Carlson: Old Files Shed Light on Long History of Handling Sex Abuse Scandals

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Archbishop Robert Carlson.
In July, a local family filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Louis, alleging that Archbishop Robert Carlson attempted to cover up a priest's sex abuse and tamper with evidence in the process. This suit, surrounding Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang, was filed after Carlson was subpoenaed in the criminal investigation of Jiang (who is accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl in her home). As the case moves forward this month, victims' rights groups are arguing that Carlson's inadequate response reflects a long history of mishandling abuse allegations.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an advocacy group based in St. Louis, has provided Daily RFT with newly released documents from 1984 relating to a case at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, involving then bishop Carlson. The letters, the group argues, shed light on his decades of direct experience with these kinds of cases and repeated efforts to downplay abuse.

"It's the antithesis of what a caring shepherd should do," says David Clohessy, SNAP executive director.

See also: St. Louis Archdiocese Cancels Event to Pray for "Exoneration" of Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

The files are noteworthy because they offer a rare glimpse into a top church official's direct statements and response on sex abuse allegations and they also highlight just how long Carlson has dealt with these kinds of controversies -- a history which, Clohessy says, should better inform his efforts today.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis, however, is strongly pushing back against the criticisms of SNAP, offering Daily RFT a lengthy statement (full response on view below) defending Carlson's record on these matters and arguing that he has been a national leader in this area and a "voice for transparency in clergy sex abuse cases." Church officials say his work is still a model today and that he deserves credit, as an Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis official puts it, for taking steps in the 1980s to "break the culture of clerical secrecy in our Archdiocese."

Joseph Jiang's mug shot.

The documents relate to Father Thomas Adamson, a Minnesota priest who is accused of child sex abuse and who was allegedly transferred between numerous parishes where he worked with children even after reportedly confessing the abuse to Diocese officials. These documents -- file on view below -- were released as part of a recent legal battle.

In a July 9, 1984 memo, Carlson writes to the Archbishop about the case:

In the counseling process at St. Cloud, it has become evident that [redacted] was also sexually abused from 1972 to 1982. I asked Father Adamson about this and he admitted and, in fact, he had abused the boy during that period of time. I did not go into the sexual activity, but Father Adamson agreed that it probably would be first degree criminal sexual contact.

Carlson explains in the letter that he recommended specific criminal attorneys for Adamson (which he would have to pay for).

via Missouri Catholic Conference
Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Carlson then writes (emphasis ours):

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. I would recommend that in cooperating with Bishop Watters, that Father Adamson be sent to the Paracletes in Albuquerque or to the House of Affirmation. It is obvious to me in dealing with Father Adamson at this time that he has little remorse other than the fact that we found something else out and completely minimizes the entire situation.

Clohessy says that this is another instance of church officials trying to minimize bad press of an abuse scandal. "The first question should be, how do we find out whether he's hurt other kids and how do we help them? And how do we stop him from doing it again?"

The documents more broadly reveal "how much church leaders knew about Adamson and how little they did to stop him," Clohessy says.

Continue for more commentary from SNAP and for the full Archdiocese response.

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The sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still covering up sex crimes against kids, they are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they still are not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by all the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids. There are many of these bishops who need to be held accountable. Until that happens nothing will change.

Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day, so silence is not an options anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.,
"SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)


This article parallels a similar situation in the metro KC area, where the bishop failed to report a federal pornography case for over a year.  In both cases, the evidence is damning.  I could cite numerous other cases on a nationwide basis.  Unfortunately, leadership in this church has exhibited zero understanding let alone compassion, of the damage done to the victims they have created.   They set themselves up as the ultimate moral authority.  Truth and Justice are words not in their vocabularies.  What sorry excuses they are!


Very damning evidence for Carlson, that memo.  Not criminal, in the case of Carlson -- but unethical, and immoral.  The pink beanie of irony sits heavily on his head these days.  


Over and over again, Carlson and his PR team trot out lists of "what we're doing right now" about abuse. Two quick points.

1) That's an obvious way to dodge what's in these records - clear proof that Carlson's first concern was protecting the predator priest and the reputations of his fellow high-ranking Catholic officials (Carlson wrote, in these documents, "given the seriousness of our exposure, that theArchdiocese posture itself in such a way that any publicity will be minimized.")

2) Everything Carlson's doing right now he has to do. He has no choice. The programs and policies and procedures are mandated by the US bishops' national abuse policy. So it's like my bragging because I put money in parking meters and pay my income tax and stop at red lights.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,

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