In the clip above from a recent videotaped deposition, released today, Robert Carlson, the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Louis, claims that he didn’t always know it was a crime for adults, including priests, to have sex with children. He testifies that he’s not sure when he learned that it was illegal. He testifies that he’s not even sure he knew as far back as the 1970s that sex with children was illegal.

If this testimony is accurate, Archbishop Carlson is a moral idiot who lacked the sense to run a Boy Scout troop, much less a Catholic parish or diocese. But there is good news for the archbishop: documents released yesterday indicate that he may simply be a  butt-covering coward perjurer:

Anderson went on to ask Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, that it was crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson said.

Yet according to documents released Monday by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.

In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John R. Roach, about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.

More:

“I think if you go back in history, [testified Carlson] I think the whole culture did not know what they were dealing with. I think therapists didn’t. I don’t think we fully understood. I don’t think public school administrators understood it. I don’t think we realized it was the serious problem it is.”

But over and over, throughout the deposition, Carlson claimed to not remember answers to questions posed by Anderson — for a total of 193 times.

It is not remotely credible — not remotely — that a Roman Catholic bishop only discerned in the past few years that adults having sex with children was wrong. Yet that is what he testified to. You can believe that the archbishop’s mental faculties are impaired. Or you can believe that he’s lying to protect the Church’s exposure to damage claims by abuse victims. Which one do you think is more likely?

The reader who sent in this article writes:

This makes me so angry I can hardly speak. … What’s more, the article goes on to show that this is not merely some pathetic, evasive politician-speak, but an outright (and obvious!) lie.  How is anyone supposed to regard Catholic moral authority with any seriousness when it has leaders like this? What does this do for the face of Christianity in this country and the world? I’m reminded of my Winthrop: “We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.”

I guess the thing that most disgusts me is that I’m no longer surprised.

Clearly this reader is an anti-Catholic bigot.

But seriously, this Carlson deposition just goes to show that the moral and spiritual corruption persists in the hierarchy. Remember that in 2012, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was found guilty of shielding a priest who was discovered in 2010 collecting child pornography. The Vatican continues to allow Bishop Finn to serve. Building a fancy bishop’s palace is grounds for removal, but a conviction for shielding a pedophile priest who photographed the genitals of the laity’s children is not.

What if it were your daughters who were having their genitals photographed by this creep? What if it were your sons abused by Fr. Thomas Adamson (the figure in the civil trial involving Abp Carlson), who was known by the archdiocese as a child molester for decades? He was moved from parish to parish, molesting boys the entire time.

It ceases to be an abstraction when you think about it happening to your kids, and you grasp that the bishops cared only about protecting the priests and the image of the Church. The children of the laity were only collateral damage. With this long record of malicious indifference to the children of the laity who were victims of priests, it should surprise no one that so many people today expect the worst from the bishops.

I think about Dante, one of the greatest Catholics who ever lived, who spared nothing in his excoriation of clerical corruption, all the way to the Pope, but who never wavered in his devotion to the Church. Surely one doesn’t have to have the intellect of Dante to understand that attacking the despicable behavior of priests and bishops, and demanding that they be held accountable, does not make one disloyal to the Catholic Church, but can even be a sign of greater loyalty. It is in the interest of the hierarchy to portray all critics as motivated by anti-Catholic bias, but it is not in the interest of the Church, and it is certainly not in the interest of children and families who were victims.