Archbp. Carlson was purposely maligned. Archd. St. Louis set’s record straight.

You have by now seen articles or stories about the deposition of Archbishop Carlson (St. Louis) concerning the time when he was in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and his knowledge of cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

There is a video of part of the deposition circulating which was clearly edited so as to put Archbp. Carlson in the worst possible light.

Lawyer Jeff Anderson and willing accomplices in the MSM seem to have set out purposely to harm Archbp. Carlson’s reputation and, through him, the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

The text of the deposition is HERE.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis released a statement to the press HERE.


ST. LOUIS – This statement is intended to clear up confusion generated by the release on June 9, 2014, of a videotaped deposition of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. This deposition was taken in a lawsuit for damages pending in a Minnesota state court relating to events that occurred more than 30 years ago in Minnesota. Neither Archbishop Carlson nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis is a party to this case. Further, the Archbishop has been previously deposed by the same Plaintiff’s counsel on at least three separate prior occasions in the 1980s focused on the activities of the same priest that he was again asked about last month – 27 years later. Recent inaccurate and misleading reporting by certain media outlets has impugned Archbishop Carlson’s good name and reputation.

[NB] During a press conference held on June 9, 2014, Plaintiff’s lawyer strategically took Archbishop Carlson’s response to a question out of context and suggested that the Archbishop did not know that it was a criminal offense for an adult to molest a child. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Contrary to what is being reported, Archbishop Carlson is and has been a leader in the Church when it comes to recognizing and managing matters of sexual abuse involving the clergy. As far back as 1980, then-Father Carlson wrote “This behavior cannot be tolerated” in a memo referencing a priest’s abusive actions (Exhibit 301 of this case).

In the deposition video, which was released by Plaintiff’s counsel, the dialogue between Plaintiff’s counsel and Archbishop Carlson focused on Archbishop Carlson’s knowledge of Minnesota child abuse reporting statutes and when clergy became mandatory reporters. [NB] In the full transcript of Archbishop Carlson’s deposition, the actual exchange between Archbishop Carlson and Plaintiff’s counsel is quite different from what is being widely reported in the media. Plaintiff’s counsel began his line of questioning as follows:

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

Charles Goldberg, attorney representing Archbishop Carlson at this deposition, explained that while current Minnesota law makes it a crime for clergy persons not to report suspected child abuse, that statute did not become effective until 1988. What Plaintiff’s counsel has failed to point out to the media is that Mr. Goldberg himself noted at this point in the deposition “you’re talking about mandatory reporting?” (emphasis added). When the Archbishop said “I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” he was simply referring to the fact that he did not know the year that clergy became mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse (pgs. 108-109).

At another point in the deposition, the Plaintiff’s counsel attacked Archbishop Carlson about the answer “I don’t remember,” to which the archbishop’s legal counsel objected:

Q. [Plaintiff’s Counsel] Can you tell me today that you have no memory of ever having advised anybody to report to the police…?

MR. GOLDBERG: Just a minute. I’m going to register an objection to that question. As I mentioned at the outset…you personally, Mr. Anderson, have deposed Archbishop Carlson on June 21st, 1985; March 30th, 1987; April 2nd, 1987; and May 4th, 1987 about each of these matters in some detail of which you had over 30 exhibits marked in those depositions, and I think in fairness to the Archbishop, if you want to ask him about these things and get specific answers, he needs to see these documents, because no human being can be expected to remember, regardless of how outrageous some of these matters may have appeared, to explain in detail those things to you without a reference to these depositions 25 to 30 years ago (pg. 19).

On page 22 of the transcript, Plaintiff’s counsel questions the Archbishop, who had repeatedly requested and was denied the ability to review case documents pertaining to the questions asked of him, and who, 27 years after last being deposed, is now being maligned for his inability to recall certain events.

To reiterate, Archbishop Carlson is not a party in this case, nor has he committed a crime. He has not only voluntarily participated in this legal process, he has offered his testimony as clearly and thoughtfully as possible, given both the span of time in which this discovery process has taken place and accessibility to certain documents.

The media reports of this deposition have not only called into question the exemplary record Archbishop Carlson has amassed during his more than 40 years of ministry, but has also reopened the wounds of survivors of the heinous act of sexual abuse, and has caused further pain to the Catholic Faithful, both here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and beyond. These misleading and inaccurate reports have also resulted in negative commentary both in traditional as well as social media outlets. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Archbishop Carlson and the Catholic Church abhor any form of sexual abuse.

The full transcript of Archbishop Carlson’s deposition is on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis: HERE

It will be nearly impossible to undo the damage done by the malicious main stream media, because they won’t exercise any fairness in their reporting of the other side of the story.  At least, you, dear readers, will know more about this injustice than the MSM will tell you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Green Inkers, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, What are they REALLY saying? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I do believe he was maligned but I am curious what people think. Abp. Carlson did respond to the specific question “Archbishop, you knew it 10 was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?” Right before this, the abuse lawyer had conflated this question with a question about reporting, but the above question was a clarification and on paper and video Carlson looks bad.

    To me this is lawyer games and should not be big news but it does appear that Carlson mishandled the question.

  2. Pingback: Archdiocese of St. Louis addresses Archbishop Carlson deposition controversy | Catholic Bandita

  3. Pingback: | Archdiocese of St. Louis addresses Archbishop Carlson deposition controversy

  4. Joe Magarac says:

    I am a lawyer. I take and defend witness depositions pretty frequently. I have looked at the portions of the video that were made public, I have read the Archdiocese’s press release, and I have just read the entire transcript of the deposition.

    I do not think that the video deposition was purposely edited so as to put Archbishop Carlson in the worst possible light. To the contrary, Archbishop Carlson said over and over during the deposition the same thing that he said in the public portion of the video – that he didn’t remember what he said, did, or read regarding sexual abuse by priests with any clarity or in any detail. In other words, what he said in the allegedly “purposely edited” transcript is completely consistent with what he said during the deposition on the whole.

    This is a shame. Archbishop Carlson has a strong track record of NOT condoning sexual abuse by priests, but he completely missed multiple opportunities to talk about that, because he made the decision not to say anything if he couldn’t remember something for sure.

    Archbishop Carlson reminds me of former Bishop of South Bend D’Arcy. They both consistently said that abuser priests should not be transferred while they were auxilliary bishops, had that advice rejected by the bishops above them, and eventually took over dioceses of their own, where they forthrightly and heroically confronted clergy sexual abuse.

    The difference is that D’Arcy admitted that he had given his bishop (Law) good advice, only to see it ignored. People widely praised D’Arcy for his candor. If Carlson had been equally candid – and he surely could have been – he would be praised in the press right now, not vilified.

  5. Ray says:

    Thanks, Father Z for this article. I live in Archbishop Carlson’s Archdiocese. This story has caused much consternation amongst his flock. At least now, folks can see the entirety of the incident that set the story off. Hopefully, folks will take time to read all of it including the links you provided.

  6. Joe,

    Doesn’t this seem like the advice of his lawyer. It seems the Archdiocese lawyer felt the deposition was unnecessary and posed only risk. I was thinking he was told to avoid making any clear statements and to insist of being able to refer to past depositions for his answers. It was an overall strategy that Jeff Anderson undermined with a clever media campaign. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m inclined to think candor on such an obvious question is the right path, but this deposition is not teh news its been turned into.

  7. CrimsonCatholic says:

    I agree with Joe and Michael, I don’t believe the video was purposely edited to put Archbishop in a negative light. The Archbishop decided to answer poorly to questions, instead of stating what he had done to confront sexual abuse.

    Also, the major outlet reporting on and criticizing the Catholic church so far that I’ve seen has been The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s media outlet. (which is conservative)

    It is a shame because he has been a good Archbishop, but this is going to bring scandal on the Church.

  8. I agree with Crimson but would like to clarify that here in St. Louis the major outlets are reporting it. I do believe Carlson answered the questions poorly but this IS an unnecessary media stunt to help this lawyer’s end game.

    Perhaps the real question is whether Abp. Carlson was covering for his old Bishop superior or attempting to deflect and avoid the lawyer’s duplicitous end game. I don’t know the whole story nor do I know what occurred in he previous depositions that the Archdiocesan lawyer referred to.

  9. Joe Magarac says:

    @Michael Medoc (“Doesn’t this seem like the advice of his lawyer?”) –

    I am sure that Archbishop Carlson’s lawyer told him not to speculate, and that if he didn’t remember something, to say so. I give clients that same advice all the time.

    However, I think Archbishop Carlson took that approach to the point where it became absurd. He could have answered seemingly basic questions, including the ones about whether it is a crime for adults to engage in sex with children. He could also have said that while he didn’t remember specific cases of clergy sex abuse, he had a generally recollection of how he handled them over time, and that recollection was _____. That approach would have posed little risk to him or to the (arch)diocese.

    Here is a pretty good critique of the Archbishop’s approach.

  10. shawnbm says:

    Well, the reality is–in our soundbite secular culture–the damage has been done. This should not be too surprising.; we are dealing with the mainstream media, after all. That being said, I pray and hope someone will stand up for the archbishop in an objective way (in the NYT, Chicago Tribune and other news organizations, although I have no hope for the Huffington Post) before too long. The elephant in the room is that back in the 1970s and 1980s, the issue of ephebophilia (as opposed to true pedophilia) was misunderstood and pushed off onto the back burner by law enforcement. It was looked at as a homosexual thing, not as criminal conduct. It was thought to be something better handled by parents, counselors and churches themselves. So, there is a lot of blame to be passed around.

  11. Joe in Canada says:

    I wouldn’t remember exactly (or probably even approximately) what I said 27 years ago, and if I was being questioned on it, and the questioner had documented evidence of what I said 27 years ago, I think it would be very reasonable to say “well, let’s look at those documents”.

  12. Lisa Graas says:

    I think the most important question is why Archbishop Carlson was being questioned at all. It is my understanding that he’s been deposed multiple times over the last several decades and that he is not known to have done anything whatsoever wrong. He has not been accused of anything…….except answering questions badly on a video.

    I will be praying.

  13. Lori Pieper says:

    I would advise everyone to read the actual deposition in context (provided on the Archdiocese of St. Paul website). I’ve by no means read it all, but I have read enough to understand a lot that is not being reported.

    Keep in mind that Abp Carlson had been deposed by the same lawyer, Mr. Anderson three separate times in the 1980’s regarding these same cases. (By the way, he was not a party to the suit, just a witness). There was also abundant documentation on the cases, which neither Carlson or his lawyers had been allowed to see. His lawyers lodged a vigorous complaint abut this. It’s very clear the Abp’s answers of “I don’t know” were part of a legal strategy to get Anderson to be specific in his questioning, and refer to actual documents (in some cases he would say “I don’t remember exactly, but I refer to the document” or “I believe there is a document on this”). In many cases the strategy was successful. After a few “I don’t knows,” Anderson would break down and refer to the actual document. So, immediately after those “I don’t knows” on whether he knew sex with a minor was a crime (pp. 108-109), Anderson said:

    Q. Well, you’re talking about criminal sexual conduct in 1980, and you’re talking about it again in 1984, [evidently referring to the documents] so you knew that to be correct, right?
    A. What I said, I said, and if I — if I wrote it, I said it.

    So the whole exchange was intended to confirm and does confirm that Abp Carlson knew sexual abuse of a minor was a crime in 1980; the neat thing about this is that it was in the documents the Abp had written, and that Anderson knew this and was here being forced to admit it. But who is quoting this part of the testimony in the rush to judgment?

  14. Lisa,
    I think there may not have been good reason for being deposed and that’s why he took the approach. This lawyer’s tactics are questionable to say the least.

    Thanks to Joe for explaining form a lawyer’s point of view. I think Joe is right. Abp. Carlson made an unnecessary mistake by handling the questions as he did.

  15. JamesAugustine says:

    For they have whetted their tongues like a sword; they have bent their bow a bitter thing, To shoot in secret the undefiled. They will shoot at him on a sudden, and will not fear: they are resolute in wickedness. They have talked of hiding snares; they have said: Who shall see them?

  16. Polycarpio says:

    I agree with Joe, Michael and Crimson (I am a lawyer, also).

    I also think this story is a loser for us and if we cry foul about media bias, we will be seen as defensive, circling the wagons, and ultimately trying to play victim when it is plain as day that others are the true victims. It’s a dog of a story, it really stinks, but no use in complaining about it because it makes us look completely out of it, self absorbed, etc.

  17. Terentia says:

    The problem is, if a person testifies inaccurately, they can be prosecuted for that. Legally, shouldn’t Bishop Carlson have been allowed to review his prior depositions if he was going to be asked to testify concerning them?

  18. Aspie says:

    I know it is hard to get libel charges to stick but I wonder if it’s worth a try?

    [The bar for libel, when you are a public figure, is set reeeeeally high.]

  19. Titus says:

    The problem is, if a person testifies inaccurately, they can be prosecuted for that. Legally, shouldn’t Bishop Carlson have been allowed to review his prior depositions if he was going to be asked to testify concerning them?

    His Excellency has access to those transcripts. If he wanted to review them, or thought they were important, or his attorneys did, he could have reviewed them at whatever length he wanted.

    The whole affair is an ongoing stunt by the plaintiff’s attorney. But His Excellency very clearly said he didn’t know whether sexual abuse was a crime in the 1970s. The question he answered was not tied to reporting laws and was not misleading or misframed.

  20. Joe Magarac says:

    There seems to be a misunderstanding about whether Archbishop Carlson was allowed to look at documents, either before or during his deposition. Lori Pieper suggests that “There was also abundant documentation on the [prior] cases, which neither Carlson or his lawyers had been allowed to see.” Terentia asks “shouldn’t Bishop Carlson have been allowed to review his prior depositions if he was going to be asked to testify concerning them?”

    I would just like to note that Archbishop Carlson and his lawyer had all of these materials available to them both before and during the deposition. Archbishop Carlson wasn’t required to read them beforehand, and my guess is that he didn’t – there are a lot of them, and he’s a busy man. But he could have.

    Also, most lawyers ask questions at a deposition using what is called the “funnel technique”: you ask a witness general questions and (hopefully) get general answers, and then you get into the specifics by asking specific questions about specific incidents and specific documents. That is what Mr. Anderson was doing to the Archbishop here. It is completely common and not in any way unfair.

    What happened here is that Archbishop Carlson refused to say anything in response to the general questions, other than “I don’t remember” or “You probably have that in a document.” That was his right, but it looks bad. Here’s an example, from page 14 of the deposition transcript:

    Q. Well, there are matters that aren’t documented, so my question is first tell me what you remember. Do you remember reporting to the police?
    A. I have very little memory, but anything I did would be in the documents you possess and for which I have taken depositions on three or four occasions.

    This is a fair answer. But it hides the ball. Why not just say the truth, which is that “No, I didn’t report these incidents to the police until after the 1996 Bishops’ Meeting”? The documents, and the rest of the deposition, establish that pretty clearly. It’s the truth; why not just say it?

    Part of what is happening here is that Archbishop Carlson is trying to avoid saying anything that could give the plaintiff’s lawyer a way to attack the Church. The problem with that approach, as I see it, is two-fold. First, as noted above, it looks bad: it looks like you’re being intentionally uncooperative. Second, it is not the way that Jesus exhorted people to testify in court, or the way that Jesus and St. Paul actually testified when they were brought into court. They asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, told the truth, and let God take care of the rest. I think that’s a much better approach, and I would note that it helped bring closure to abuse cases in Boston (when Cardinal O’Malley got involved), Pittsburgh, and several other places.

  21. JacobWall says:

    I know very little about law; however, it seems to be important that they had all the documents of what the Bishop had said on hand. If had ventured to say a little more (presuming that he actually did remember something,) couldn’t it be that this lawyer was just looking for some contradiction could cause trouble for Archbishop Carlson?

    On the whole, though, I agree that it’s very reasonable that after 27 years you don’t remember much. I don’t remember what I said last week – my wife always reminds me of that fact. Now, I know these are far more important matters, but still it’s 27 years.

  22. Pingback: 12 Things Catholic Fathers Want to Say -

  23. Lori Pieper says:

    Mr. Magarac: What I read in the deposition certainly doesn’t sound to me as if Abp Carlson had the documents.

    MR. GOLDBERG: Just a minute. I’m going to
    7 register an objection to that question. As I
    8 mentioned at the outset, when I was introducing
    9 myself, you personally, Mr. Anderson, have deposed
    10 Archbishop Carlson on June 21st, 1985; March 30th,
    11 1987; April 2nd, 1987; and May 4th, 1987 about each of
    12 these matters in some detail of which you had over 30
    13 exhibits marked in those depositions, and I think in
    14 fairness to the Archbishop, if you want to ask him
    15 about these things and get specific answers, he needs
    16 to see these documents, because no human being can be
    17 expected to remember, regardless of how outrageous
    18 some of these matters may have appeared, to explain in
    19 detail those things to you without a reference to
    20 these depositions 25 to 30 years ago.

    What you say might be true. It is common for both sides at the trial to be provided with the main documents (though this, I believe, was a civil, not a criminal trial). But given that there were hundreds of documents, and hundreds of pages more of his depositions, perhaps it wasn’t unreasonable for the bishop ask to be shown a document that was being referred to.

Comments are closed.