A former altar boy who attended Caledonia’s St. John’s Parish in the 1960s publicly spoke out for the first time Thursday about abuse he said he suffered at the hands of former Diocese of Winona priest Thomas Adamson.
Bill Beardmore’s decision to speak out comes as attorney Jeff Anderson filed a new lawsuit on his behalf against the Diocese this week in Winona County District Court. The suit seeks $50,000 in damages, and, like similar suits Anderson has filed elsewhere, requests that a judge order the public release of a list that contains the names and personal information of “credibly accused child molesting priests.”
Beardmore, a 61-year-old Iowa man, grew up in Caledonia and encountered Adamson as an altar boy at St. John’s during 1963-64. Beardmore, originally listed as John Doe 16 in his lawsuit against the Diocese, spoke Thursday about being sexually abused by Adamson as a young child.
According to Beardmore and court documents, Adamson repeatedly cornered him in private areas of the church and subjected him to oral and anal sex over a two-year period. Beardmore first came forward in 2002, but his claims were dismissed by the Diocese for a lack of corroborating evidence, he said.
“I feel like I have been through the wringer,” Beardmore said in an interview. “The Diocese made me feel like the bad person in all this. There needs to be accountability.”
The Winona Diocese declined comment Thursday but released a statement saying, in part, “The Diocese of Winona is committed to the protection and safety of children and young people in its care.”
“The Diocese of Winona has removed all priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct of a minor from active ministry and many of the priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct of a minor in the past are deceased.”
Adamson, believed to be living in Rochester, was not able to be reached for comment. Adamson never faced criminal abuse charges - the statute of limitations had expired - but has been named in several prior lawsuits, many settled out of court. Last year the Winona Diocese barred him from all diocese parishes and schools.
Anderson also released copies Thursday of internal Diocese communications from the 1970s and 1980s, which show that the Diocese was aware of Adamson’s actions. He also released a record of Adamson’s appointments and movements as a Catholic priest.
In 1963, officials in the Diocese “learned or should have learned” that Adamson was abusing boys at St. John’s, and around the same time Adamson admitted to the Vicar General of the Winona Diocese that he had touched one of the boys, according to court documents. During the same time period, church officials continued to assign Adamson to positions where he could gain the trust of young boys and families, according to the court documents.
The suit brings four charges against the Winona Diocese, one of nuisance and three of neglect, saying the Diocese knowingly concealed the actions of Adamson and other priests, was negligent in its care of Beardmore and other minors, and negligent in its actions to supervise and discipline Adamson.
“(Beardmore) really stood up today to let survivors know they can come forward,” Anderson said. “He did the right thing and the courageous thing. He is doing what he can to clean up a church that turned its back on him.”
Anderson filed a similar suit against Adamson in May, brought on behalf of a 51-year-old anonymous plaintiff who claims that between 1976 and 1977 Adamson engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with the plaintiff while he was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas parish in St. Paul Park. The Diocese of Winona has also declined comment on that case and has issued a statement similar to the one it put out Thursday.
Anderson has filed a number of suits this year against priests accused of abuse because of a new state law the Legislature approved this spring. The Minnesota Child Victims Act removes the civil statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse. Previously, the state required victims to file suit against an alleged abuser within six years of becoming a legal adult, by age 24.