Last week, I linked to Lily Fowler's article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch regarding the deposition of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's last month in a sexual abuse lawsuit involving the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the diocese of Winona, Minnesota. The deposition was released last week.
As Lily Fowler points out,
[O]ver and over, throughout the deposition, Carlson claimed to not remember answers to questions posed by Anderson — for a total of 193 times.
Here's Questions from a Ewe commenting on Archbishop Carlson's bizarre memory lapses as he was deposed about his time as bishop in the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minnesota:
Yes, 7 of Bob’s responses to the first 10 questions were variations on "Bob Can’t Remember A Darn Thing." I haven’t tallied the responses for the deposition's full 156 pages, but having read the entire document, I’d guess that the 70% forgetfulness rate is a pretty close estimate if not conservatively low.
I found myself puzzling over this. If Bob struggles to remember things, how can he remember the teachings of the faith? Bishops are entrusted with teaching the faith. How can he teach what he doesn’t remember?
How can he remember the subtleties associated with tenets of faith when he can’t remember major traumatic events like a priest sexually assaulting kids…repeatedly? Wasn’t it important enough to carve out a storage location in his brain? Most compassionate people would have a seared permanent image from it, I suspect. Maybe Bob once stored that info but has subsequently overwritten it with fascinating notions about “religious liberty.” I don’t know.
And she's right. Couple these strange . . . memory lapses . . . with Carlson's equally baffling statement that he wasn't sure that he knew in 1984 (when he was bishop in St. Paul-Minneapolis) that it was a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor, and American Catholics have yet another flabbergasting, incendiary document out in the public realm to apologize for, try to explain away, come to terms with — you name it.
The attempt of tribalistic Catholics like Bill Donohue (and here) and Dave Pierre (see his comments in this thread at Commonweal) to spin Carlson's testimony as something other than what it is — a colossal embarrassment for the Catholic church in the U.S. — is an indicator of how damaging the tribalists know testimony like this is to the reputation of the church, once it's out in the public square. As it should be.
As Questions from a Ewe notes, perhaps instead of giving us more occasions to hang our heads in shame and yank our children from Catholic schools because we fear they'll be molested, the men running the church might decide — for a change — to give us some good bishops? Ones that at least know the laws of the country in which they're exercising pastoral office.
And who can remember what day of the week it is and how to put the right shoes on the right feet and tie them correctly before they walk out of their episcopal mansions. (The Post-Tribune article I linked last week includes a videotape of part of Archbishop Carlson's deposition from attorney Jeff Anderson. I've included the video in today's posting at the suggestion of Neil Allen in a comment here this weekend).