In 2003, a man met with church officials from the Diocese of Winona. When he was younger, he said, Father Sylvester Brown had been his spiritual advisor, but the counselling didn't last long.
The priest's first session hung on the topic of sexuality and led to questions about whether the man was circumcised. At a later session, Brown asked him to strip naked and get an erection. And when he did, Brown prayed over the man's genitals.
It was wildly inappropriate behavior, to say the least, but in line with what the man had been hearing about Brown: In college, the budding priest had been nicknamed the "ball blesser."
He's dead now, but if you're so inclined you can resuscitate this part of his life in documents. Attorney Jeff Anderson released Brown's private personnel file Tuesday along with 13 other "credibly accused" priests from the Diocese of Winona.
At least one of the names you'll recognize: Thomas Adamson. He's the guy who admitted recently on camera to ejaculating with children. He then slugged a Diet Coke and went on to say he engaged in oral sex with other boys. But just how many, he couldn't remember.
He's scheduled to go on trial in November.
Most other names are probably new to you, but that doesn't mean their actions are any less, um, whacky. For instance, Father Richard Hatch was sent to England in 1964, following allegations that he abused an altar boy between trips to the confessional. But Hatch soon went AWOL and turned up out west with his divorced sister-in-law. A New Mexico priest wrote back to Winona asking for more information about Hatch before he caused a sensation in this "very anti-catholic town" and married a woman "more in need of an asylum than of a husband."
But the diocese couldn't wait to get rid of Hatch, and he appears to have lived out his final 41 years in Texas, or thereabout, never once having to answer for his alleged crimes.
Indeed, as an outsider, maybe the most frustrating thing about the ensuing scandal is the way the Diocese of Winona handled claims of sexual abuse -- not just in some excusable past, but in the post-Boston era.
In Brown's case, church officials waited nine months before taking a statement from the victim. And when they did, in March 2003, they tried to bury the man's resentment with bureaucratic bullshit.
In the transcript of an interview, which was distributed among top-ranking clergy, Father Michael Hoeppner apologizes for the delay. He then goes on to say that in July 2002, when the accusation was brought to his attention, "the team wasn't clear that this was an official accusation."
Hoeppner is now Bishop of the Diocese of Crookston.
Brown retired Aug. 1, 2002, but continued picking up assignments. Five years later, he served as the parochial administrator of two churches -- Saint Ann in Janesville and Saint Joseph in Waldorf. Death came for him in 2010.