On Wednesday, a Ramsey County judge ordered Kevin McDonough, a former vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to undergo another 150 minutes of sworn testimony related his handling of sex abuse cases.
McDonough is the closest thing the church has had to a detective, and for many years he sat at the center of church internal affairs. His testimony is being taken as part of a lawsuit against the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona, claiming that together these institutions posed a threat to the entire Twin Cities region by protecting priests like Thomas Adamson, an admitted child abuser.
Two months ago, plaintiffs attorney Jeff Anderson complained that both McDonough and Archbishop John Nienstedt walked out of their respective depositions early. Judge John Van de North responded by calling again on McDonough, but he sparred Nienstedt from a second round of videotaped questioning.
Mike Finnegan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says many questions remain about how McDonough treated allegations of clerical sex crimes. He notes that the archdiocese has now turned over case files related to 103 credibly accused priests -- twice as many as it had turned over when McDonough first testified in April.
Tom Wieser, an attorney for the archdiocese, told the Star Tribune that the church welcomes the opportunity for McDonough to testify a second time, even though "it wasn't our first choice."
Anderson also asked the court Wednesday to force the release of church leaders' computers and cell phones so that the digital media may be examined for incriminating evidence such as deleted emails and text messages. For this potential task, Anderson has tapped Mark Lanterman, a former detective and veteran computer forensic analyst who once served on a Secret Service task force.
The hope is that the examination will help get to the bottom of a messy question Anderson and his allies have been asking for years: Which church leaders knew what and when? And answering it could help settle the debate on whether the shielding of pedophiles is still a common practice.
For instance, the archdiocese has claimed -- and Ramsey County prosecutors agreed -- that it acted appropriately when approached with an allegation about Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest who's now serving jail time for molesting two boys. But Anderson has accused the archdiocese of waiting to go to police until after the 24-hour period mandated by law and to make his point, points to the date on an internal document. The archdiocese, however, contests that that date is incorrect.
Van de North has yet to make up his mind on whether he's going to allow Lanterman's examination of church metadata. The discussion will resume at a hearing on July 21. Meanwhile, the archdiocese has hired a computer analyst of its own.