Media outlets – both secular and religious – have been falling over themselves to tout the dramatic front-page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Lilly Fowler that St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson testified in a recent deposition that he was unaware that the sexual abuse of a child was a crime.
As one might imagine, however, even a cursory look at the actual facts reveals that the entire story is just plain silly at best and malicious at worst.
The Archbishop is obviously well aware that sex abuse of a child is, and always has been, a crime, and to suggest otherwise simply demonstrates how deeply ingrained the mainstream media's animus is against the Catholic Church and its leaders.
Fowler's selective facts
Fowler's story is based entirely on selected excerpts from a deposition that Archbishop Carlson recently sat for in a lawsuit by the hyperbolic contingency lawyer Jeff Anderson. And no doubt the story was another plant by Anderson to pump up the value of his lawsuit by using useful idiots in the media like Fowler to put public pressure on the Church to settle the case on favorable terms to Anderson.
However, even a cursory review of the actual deposition (pdf) clearly illustrates that Archbishop Carlson was not claiming that he did not know that the sexual abuse of a child was a crime.
For starters, Fowler makes no mention of the fact that the deposition involved a priest who was removed from active ministry because of abuse some 30 years ago, nor does she bother to inform her readers that Carlson himself played a significant role in events leading to the priest's removal.
Fowler also conveniently neglects to tell readers that this was the fifth time that Carlson had sat for a deposition with Jeff Anderson regarding this very same priest.
And as far as Fowler's wild headline that Abp. Carlson "claims to be uncertain if he knew sexual abuse was a crime," a look at the deposition reveals that numerous times during the deposition Carlson clearly acknowledges that child abuse is indeed a crime. For example:
ANDERSON: [Y]ou knew a priest touching the genital of a kid to be a crime; did you not?
ABP. CARLSON: Yes.
ANDERSON: And you also knew that when first degree criminal sexual conduct is written and recorded, that is the most serious of the sex crimes against a child. You know that?
ABP. CARLSON: Correct.
And as at least one source has aptly pointed out, in the deposition Carlson told Anderson eight separate times that he had told relatives of abuse victims to go to the police, which is an obvious indication that Carlson knew crimes had been committed.
Oddly, in her story Fowler did bury one of Carlson's statements that he knew that sex abuse was a crime – thus undermining the entire premise of her splashy headline.
Anderson's bait and switch
So, what about Fowler's fevered claim that Archbishop Carlson testified that he did not know that child sex abuse was a crime?
Well, the deposition makes clear that Carlson had repeatedly acknowledged the depravity of child abuse, and when Carlson testified that he did not know whether "it" was a crime, he was referring to the mandatory reporting of abuse and not the crime of sex abuse itself. Indeed, Carlson has since released a statement and video explaining as much.
We thus have yet another phony story hawked by the notorious Jeff Anderson and penned by an all-too-willing journalist in Folwer seizing the opportunity to produce a TMZ-worthy story which an anti-Catholic media was more-than-pleased to promote.
In the end, the story here is really more about the current state of the mainstream media than anything Archbishop Carlson said in a deposition about what he remembers from 30 years ago.