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Top archiocese figure disputes archbishop's sworn testimony

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The release of the six-hour deposition of a former top leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is shedding additional light on how church officials addressed clergy sexual abuse of children.

The Star Tribune reports the sworn testimony of the Rev. Kevin McDonough, whom the newspaper called the archdiocese's "longtime point person on Catholic priest sexual misconduct," was released Thursday by Jeff Anderson, the attorney for an alleged child abuse victim. Here is the full 318-page transcript made available by the archdiocese on its website.

The release of McDonough’s court-ordered deposition comes two days after Anderson released the deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt. In that deposition, Nienstedt frequently mentioned McDonough, formerly the vicar general. Neinstedt testified that McDonough did a “good job” but claimed that McDonough was aware of the details of wayward clergy while he was not.

MPR News reports that in his deposition, McDonough 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.

"He and I would have never been in a position for much casual conversation," McDonough said. "Archbishop Nienstedt managed largely by memo."

KSTP adds McDonough acknowledged he chose not to talk with St. Paul police investigating allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. He also said that he declined to be interviewed by a panel appointed by the archdiocese to review its policies and practices, saying most of his activity was already documented.

MPR's story says McDonough's testimony included a "startling admission." The former vicar general explained that former Archbishop John Roach created the Catholic Community Foundation fund in the 1990s "so that donors could give money without the risk that it could be used to pay legal settlements and jury awards to victims of clergy sexual abuse." The story noted that Anderson "has sought for years to prove that the foundation was created for that purpose."

At the deposition, McDonough maintained the archdiocese has done a better job than other dioceses and public school districts in handling child sexual abuse.

"I don't believe there's ever been a cover-up," he said.

But Anderson's associate Sarah Odegaard said McDonough “denied and minimized” what he knew.

“To this day, Father McDonough still cannot admit that he made mistakes,” she said.

Both McDonough and Neinstedtwere ordered to give sworn testimony by Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North in a lawsuit brought by a man who claimed he was abused in the 1970s. Anderson has said he will ask the court to depose both men again.

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