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Motion seeks to appeal Minn. judge's decision, block Nienstedt deposition

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A motion filed Thursday could put the brakes on a possible deposition of St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt regarding clergy sexual abuse in his archdiocese. 

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese filed a motion late Thursday night asking District Judge John Van de North to stay his decision from earlier in the week that depositions be taken of Nienstedt and former vicar general Fr. Kevin McDonough.

On Tuesday, Van de North ruled to allow depositions in a case involving former priest Thomas Adamson, who is accused of sexually abusing a boy in the late 1970s. Adamson, 80, was permanently removed from ministry in 1985 and among the list of names of credibly accused priests the archdiocese disclosed in December.

The lawsuit also charges the archdiocese and the Winona, Minn., diocese with endangering the public by keeping his and other credibly accused priests’ history quiet. It is under that premise that attorney Jeff Anderson sought to depose Nienstedt and McDonough, whose decisions have recently come into question in relation to mishandling of abuse allegations.

The Pioneer Press reported the archdiocese’s motion seeks for Van de North to stay his order as the archdiocese pursues an appeal to a higher court. Their request extends also to the judge’s ruling that the archdiocese disclose names of priests accused of sexually abusing minors since 2004, which would remain sealed and available only in the court proceedings.

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From the Pioneer Press:

“In the motion, filed in Ramsey County District Court late Thursday, the archdiocese said the "legal basis for the broad discovery permitted and the disclosures ordered by the court are highly questionable" and ‘cannot be undone once they are made by the archdiocese.’”

On Tuesday, the archdiocese released a statement saying “it looks forward to working with the Court and all affected parties to promote the protection of children, the healing of victims and the restoration of trust of the faithful and our clergy who are serving our communities nobly and with honor.

“At the same time, we strongly assert our pursuit of justice for any who are falsely accused. All of these goals are the basis for every action and decision we are making regarding this ongoing disclosure,” the statement said.

In a new statement Friday, communications director Jim Accurso said the archdiocese is bringing the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals because Van de North’s ruling allows for discovery not related to the Adamson case and that it extends beyond the limits of Minnesota law.

“The facts involving the history of misconduct of Thomas Adamson are well known, well documented in prior cases and were widely covered by the media decades ago,” he said. “The Judge’s order calls for Archbishop Nienstedt, who did not arrive in the archdiocese until 2007 and who has no information about Adamson, to testify under oath about the claims of the plaintiff regarding activity that occurred decades before the archbishop’s tenure.”

The Survivors Network of those Accused by Priests said that by challenging the judge’s decision Nienstedt “is inflicting emotional whiplash on abuse victims and concerned Catholics,” by filing the motion in light of Tuesday's statement. David Clohessy, SNAP director, asked in a press release what has changed in the time between Tuesday’s statement and Friday’s motion, and said such disclosures “help protect kids and heal victims.”

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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