Archbishop Seeks Payment from Abuse Victim

Archbishop John John Nienstedt of the Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul has asked the judge in a recently dismissed priest abuse lawsuit for $64,000 in legal fees. The lawsuit was dismissed on the judge’s determination that the suit was not filed in a timely manner. Nienstedt’s attorneys want to recoup their legal fees from the survivor which a legal maneuver normally sought in frivolous lawsuit cases. Is it the position of the Archbishop that this survivor’s claims are frivolous and without merit? This is a tough argument to make since the priest in question, Fr. Thomas Adamson has been accused before and admitted as early as 1980 to sexually abusing minors.
The local Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests has protested the Archbishop’s action and has released the following statement: “We in SNAP believe it’s immoral for a bishop to exploit legal technicalities and hide behind an archaic and predator-friendly statute of limitations,” said David Clohessy, director of SNAP, referring to Archbishop John Nienstedt. “A profit-making secular businessman might do this. But it’s just wrong for a professed spiritual figure to do so.” While it may not be moral, the Archbishop must view it as an effective means of intimidating other sexual abuse survivors from coming forward and seeking justice through a sexual abuse lawsuit.
The suit was not dismissed because the victim’s allegations were found not to be credible. The suit was dismissed because of the restrictive statute of limitations which prevents many victims from pursuing justice. If this is the Archdiocese’s idea of good pastoral practice, all of us should be alarmed.
One has to wonder if other dioceses and archdioceses around the world will soon follow the lead of this Archdiocese. I doubt if this is an isolated, aggressive strategy to deal with sexual abuse victims only within the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul. It would be interesting to ask the newly appointed president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Archbishop Timothy Dolan his thoughts concerning this hardball tactic. His own handling of sexual abuse survivors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee left much to be desired. However, Dolan seems to be sensitive to the potential adverse public relations consequences of these aggressive tactics. According to most press reports, Dolan’s ability to deal with the press (the NY Times a notable exception) was one of the principal reasons he was elected over Bishop Gerald Kicanas, a former Chicagoan who was felled by his mishandling of Chicago pedophile priest Rev. Daniel McCormack.
Perhaps the NY Times will ask Archbishop Dolan about his fellow archbishop’s actions toward a priest abuse survivor. It would be interesting to see what he says.