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Former priest at center of sex abuse lawsuit admits he abused at least 10 boys

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A former priest who worked in Minnesota for decades admitted in a deposition he sexually abused numerous children during his time with the church, according to the document made public Wednesday.

Thomas Adamson, 80, who worked at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona for more than 25 years, testified in May that he remembered having sexual contact with at least 10 minors – but he was unsure of the specific number.

The deposition is part of a lawsuit by a man identified as John Doe 1, against Adamson, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the Diocese of Winona. It was taken May 16 of this year, and released Wednesday by Jeff Anderson and Associates, attorneys for Doe 1.

The full 79-page transcript was made available by Anderson.

At the deposition, Adamson testified he first had sexual contact with a minor in 1961. The boy was 14 years old, an athlete at St. Adrian High School where Adamson worked and coached, he said. Adamson said he had thought of the sexual encounters "more as a sin ... than a crime."

He also admitted he didn't comprehend the seriousness of it at the time.

According to a timeline released by Anderson's firm, other priests began finding out about Adamson's abuse as early as 1963, with more instances of other priests learning about sexual abuse over the next decade.

In 1975, Adamson was moved to the Twin Cities archdiocese. It was at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Paul Park that Doe 1 says he was sexually abused by Adamson.

Adamson in the deposition said he had sexual contact with minors through the mid-80s, but has not been with a child for 30 years. He also said church officials never asked him about the names of kids he may have abused, nor how many he may have abused.

More Depositions

A month before Adamson's testimony, one current and one former church leader gave their own deposition in connection with the lawsuit.

Archbishop John Nienstedt on April 2 said he took steps to keep information secret related to abusive priests and did not give complete files to police. The deposition was significant to Anderson’s cases because it was the first time Nienstedt answered questions under oath about clergy sexual abuse since he became leader of the Twin Cities archdiocese in 2008.

Shortly after the release of the deposition, the archdiocese rebuked some of Nienstedt's claims.

Former church official Rev. Kevin McDonough was deposed about two weeks after Nienstedt. In his sworn testimony, McDonough (described by the Star Tribune as the “longtime point person on Catholic priest sexual misconduct”) denied having a conversation with Nienstedt in which he instructed the archbishop not to write down sensitive information – a conversation Neinstedt, during his deposition, said happened.

On May 12, former Vicar General Rev. Peter Laird testified he suggested Nienstedt resign in the wake of the unfolding clergy sex abuse scandal.

Two days later, Retired Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn testified under oath that he could not recall the details of clergy sexual abuse cases that arose in the archdiocese during his years as its head. MPR News noted Flynn said at least 134 times that he could not remember how he handled clergy sexual abuse cases while he led the archdiocese from 1995-2008. He also did not report any allegations of clergy abuse to police, he said, and did not recall asking anyone else to do so.

Video from all the depositions is available on Anderson's YouTube page.

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