Phil Lawler has Done All the Heavy Lifting

Phil Lawler has Done All the Heavy Lifting June 11, 2014

on the rubbish coming from Abp Carlson and his chancery so that I don’t have to.

This will all be a matter for the courts of course. But as for me and my house, I wish bishops who do this stuff would just have the grace to resign. “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24)

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  • Peter Williams

    Could I nominate the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis for the worst PR effort of the year?
    By offering the explanation that Archbishop Carlson was answering a different question than what was asked, then suggesting full context would vindicate this view and even providing a link to the full deposition which actually contradicts this claim, it leaves my scratching my head and wondering if they actually read the whole transcript.
    The more of this transcript that’s read, the worse the Archbishop looks, in whatever context you want to claim. The answers to the questions point to either gross incompetence or a very poor legal strategy – neither of which can be easily explained away with a press release.

  • Francisco J Castellanos

    “Q. (By Mr. Anderson) Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?
    A. I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it’s a crime.
    Q. When did you first discern that it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?
    A. I don’t remember.”

    Unbelievable 🙁

    And yet, there are still certain Catholic quarters that are defending the Archbishop and blame this on the “Activist Attorney Anderson” (probably because Archbishop Anderson has a reputation for “orthodoxy”)

    As the saying goes: “Non desunt qui sic caecus videre”

    • I wonder how much of a role the attorneys had in this. Some take the strategy that as many questions as possible in a deposition should be answered “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” and “I don’t recall.” In addition to leading to ugly situations like this, it can backfire hugely at trial.

      • jakeslaw

        In a deposition, one is suppose to answer all questions asked unless the questions fall outside the subject matter. Normally in most states that operate under the uniform civil rules of procedure, objections are merely done for the record. But the lawyer for the deponent should have prepared the witness to understand that such questions would be asked, could have objected to the question as vague, ambiguous, and asked the attorney to clarify the question. This would have allowed the witness time to fully digest or understand the question. After the “answer” the lawyer should have helped to clarify by conducting some follow up questions. Non of this appears to have been done. Nevertheless the deponent (bishop) should have understood the question and answered it correctly. The “i don’t know” stonewalling effect normally backfires unless the deponent is a skillful liar. The rule of thumb is – one listens to the question, answers clearly, honestly, narrowly and to the point.

    • Diane Kamer

      Something just doesn’t compute here. Nobody could be that stupid. Not even a bishop.

  • Irksome1

    Do we know that this bishop hasn’t resigned? I mean, it’s possible that he submitted his resignation to the pope and that it was rejected.

  • Cypressclimber

    About the only thing I can think of to exculpate the Archbishop would be to say he was tired and confusing the question with a prior question, that was about mandatory reporting. I’ve never been through a deposition. I can imagine it’s grueling and nerve-wracking.

    But if that was the case, one wonders why the Archbishop’s attorney didn’t ask to clarify the question.

    In any case, the actual answer to the actual question — as the transcript bears witness — is awful.

  • chad

    I think I will wait until knees stop jerking to understand what is going on. Lawler’s post is not impressive and had to include an update. Fr Z has a defensive post up. The Diocese released a statement. I have no desire to condemn or defend until I see something better than what is getting thrown out there now.

    • JJG

      With Lori Pieper above, I would encourage you to read the full deposition, which is available here:

      I’ve long said that if people went to primary sources, which is the first rule for accuracy in researching any issue, they’d come away with a rather different impression than what is reported in the press. It’s tedious and disedifying work, so it’s rarely done. Additionally, I recommend people actually read the John Jay study, which is also available online.

      I think we’ve got the gentle as doves thing down pretty well. Is there a point at which the wise as serpents part kicks in?

    • I’m starting to get judgment whiplash. Every time I think I know I can be properly outraged about something that happened all the way across the country to people I don’t know, along comes someone with a really annoying fact that doesn’t confirm my judgment. Goddammit.

      • JJG

        Just use the experience to help calibrate your BS detector.

  • 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 is not a defendant in the present lawsuit, 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 remember” were part of a legal strategy to get Anderson to be specific in his questioning, and refer to actual documents (in some cases the Abp 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 remembers,” Anderson would break down and refer to the actual document. So, immediately after those “I don’t remembers” 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, [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 does confirm that Abp Carlson knew sexual abuse of a minor was a crime in 1980 and that it was in the documents the Abp had written at the time, and Anderson knew it. The neat part is that he was forced to admit he already knew the answer to the question when he asked it. But who is quoting this part of the testimony in the rush to judgment?

    Update: I have corrected a couple of slight mistakes. I have no idea why the Archdiocese is not stressing this part of the answer. It explains a whole lot more than what they said does.

    • peggy

      Yes, this is correct. He’s been deposed several times already by this attorney. The criminal case has been long adjudicated. A witness should requests a document for reference when being cross examined to determine what he actually said previously. Carlson himself was instrumental in encouraging the parents to go to the police. The events themselves were over 30 years ago. Carlson is right to refer to whatever documents he prepared or read at the time. This is a nuisance case for money Carlson should do nothing to help the plaintiff.

      • entonces_99

        If he was subpoenaed (and his lawyers couldn’t get the subpoena quashed), he really doesn’t have a choice about being deposed.

        • peggy

          The statement from the archdiocese suggests he was not subpoenaed. My point is that he need not answer questions for the plaintiff that can be answered with actual historical documents. It sounds like there was quite a good paper trail. Why rely on imperfect recollection that could get him in unnecessary hot water? That is what I meant by “helping the plaintiff.”

  • Doug Sirman

    I love the press release which characterizes statements that it refuses to identify, and then pretends to address the issue at hand by drawing attention away from it to a false issue. The Archdiocese and Mr. Goldberg are bullshit artists
    Pg 109, lines 9 – 12, after Mr. Anderson states THAT HE’LL ASK ANOTHER QUESTION:
    9 Q. (By Mr. Anderson) Archbishop, you knew it
    10 was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?
    11 A. I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime
    12 or not. I understand today it’s a crime.
    This is NOT a question about mandatory reporting AS THE ARCHDIOCESE TRIES TO LIE ABOUT, it is a question as to whether or not the Bishop regarded an adult having sex with a child to be a crime. He claims (lies) that he’s not sure, which means he’s not qualified to ask “do you want fries with that?” much less be a Priest.

    • entonces_99

      And I’m sure you’ve never been confused and answered the question you thought you heard rather than the question that was actually asked. But you still would be well advised to pray you never get deposed by an attorney who would like nothing better that to confuse your or catch you up in a misstatement.

      • Doug Sirman

        “And I’m sure you’ve never been confused and answered the question you thought you heard rather than the question that was actually asked….”

        Well, not and then put out a press release lying about the question that was asked. I mean I’d have to be dishonest AND stupid to do something that dumb.

        • entonces_99

          So I guess if you had been confused and answered the question you thought you heard rather than the question that was actually asked, AND you were a person of such prominence that your erroneous statement would be sure to be exploited by the badgering lawyer who had caught you in a misstatement, and by people who wanted to throw stones at the institution you served, then you’d just lay low and say nothing, hoping that everything would just blow over. When that happens, let me know how that works out for you, would you?

          • Doug Sirman

            Yay! Rambling, incoherent, obviously unhinged, last-word contest is ON!!!! I guess if you’re incapable of reading or understanding a sequence of events and their meaning in context and yet seem to think you have something of value to add to defend some self-beclowned deponent that someone doesn’t always understand in context to the clairvoyantly discerned true intent , then maybe you can figure out how you’re personally wounded by not knowing what you’re talking about but you’re always right even when it’s obvious that you’re misunderstood then let me know how that works out for you, would you?

  • Colin Gormley

    Actually the transcript makes it quite plausible that after 5 hours of testimony the bishop thought he was answering a question about mandatory reporting. The lead in to the question at hand confirms this.

    The press office of the archdiocese is spinning this to be sure. The bishop clearly flubbed on the question to say the least. But I don’t think it is a stretch to think that the bishop was answering a different question.

  • entonces_99

    I’ve only read the first 23 pages of the deposition transcript, and it’s pretty clear what is going on here. The answers to attorney Anderson’s questions are ones that can be derived from documents that Anderson isn’t showing to the archbishop, but Anderson is trying to bully the archbishop into answering based on shadowy recollections from up to decades ago, hoping that the archbishop will give an answer that can be contradicted by the documents, so he can be painted as a liar. The archbishop (no doubt on the advice of his attorney) is refusing to play Anderson’s game of “Gotcha!”

    • Exactly. With three previous depositions and piles of documents on record, the ONLY things Anderson should really have been questioning Abp Carlson on is matters of evidence that have come up since 1987 or something unclear or just not in the previous depositions or documents that he could have elucidated. But Anderson, an unscrupulous individual, was hoping to get some damaging statement he could use again Abp Carlson. Keep in mind, if he read his own documents, he would know that Abp Carlson had stated in writing in 1980 and 1984 that sexual abuse of a minor is a criminal offense. So why ask the question except to try and trip up the witness?

      I do think the defense strategy partly backfired, because the Abp saying “I don’t remember” is obviously going to be judged harshly by people who don’t know the history of the case, don’t know the strategy, or haven’t read the whole deposition — which is just about everyone. And the Archdiocesan statement was badly bungled. Trying to say the Abp was answering a different question isn’t plausible and makes him look like a fool. It’s almost as if the people who wrote it never even talked to the Archbishop or his lawyers!

  • entonces_99

    The archbishop confirmed what I concluded on reading the transcript: that he was confused and misspoke. Are you going to continue to assume the worst about him?

  • Sam Schmitt

    News flash: Archbishop Carlson says that he knows, and has always known that the sexual abuse of children is a crime, and that he was confused by the questions.

    But then we could have figured that out by ourselves.

    “In the deposition last month, I misunderstood a series of questions that
    were presented to me. I wish to clarify that situation now. I fully
    understand, and have understood for my entire adult life, as I stated in
    other sections of this same deposition, sexual abuse is a grave evil
    and a criminal offense.

    “I reiterate my commitment to protect children from sexual abuse. I
    support mandatory child abuse reporting laws, to which the Archdiocese
    strictly adheres.”