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Retired Minnesota priest, 92, "very, very vaguely” recalls fondling boys

The archbishop learned in 1966 that a priest was engaging in sexual contact with boys, and that priest was assigned to four other parishes, documents show.

Article by: Randy Furst , Star Tribune

Updated: July 12, 2013 - 11:32 AM

The archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis discovered in 1966 that a Minnesota priest was engaging in sexual contact with boys, but the priest was still assigned to four more parishes over the next 25 years, according to information made public Wednesday by St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson.

The accused priest, John Brown, 92, who retired in 1991, said in an interview at his assisted-living apartment in Maplewood that he “very, very vaguely” recalls fondling some boys in a locker room.

He was asked if he was sorry.

“I have to be sorry,” he said. “Wouldn’t anybody be sorry?”

Anderson held a news conference Wednesday to introduce David Pususta, 62, of St. Paul, who said Brown molested him about six times at St. Mary’s Church in Waverly, Minn., and at a Boy Scout campground in southern Minnesota in the early 1960s.

“I know he molested others in the community,” Pususta said.

Anderson said he was citing Pususta’s case in a motion filed in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday, asking a judge to make public a sealed document that lists 33 Catholic clergy members “credibly accused of sexually molesting minors.” Anderson said a Ramsey County District judge had blocked its release because he lacked jurisdiction.

The archdiocese discounted the value of disclosing the list in a statement Wednesday.

“This request refers to information the archdiocese was asked to provide 10 years ago as part of a national study of allegations of clergy sexual abuse between the years 1950 and 2002,” the statement said.

It said that while the accusations were “not implausible,” the alleged victims often were not available or the alleged perpetrators were no longer alive or in ministry, so “there was no way to determine the substance of such allegations.”

Pususta’s account comes after a 2013 change in state law that allows alleged victims three years to pursue lawsuits for sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. At least a half-dozen lawsuits have been filed and more are expected, including one by Pususta.

Pususta said he was with a group of boys in a locker room when Brown told them to pull down their shorts; he then checked them for hernias.

He said Brown asked his parents to send him to the rectory so he could tell the boy about the birds and bees. He said Brown pulled his pants down and fondled his genitals and asked for the names of boys who were sexually active.

“I was traumatized,” he said. As an adult, Pususta said, he met with a psychologist and made arrangements with the archdiocese to meet with Brown.

He said that the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, allowed him only a few minutes to ask questions.

1992 memo about Brown

While Pususta had kept the alleged abuse secret until recent years, a parent of another boy complained about Brown to Archbishop Leo Binz in 1966, according to a 1992 memorandum by McDonough. Binz died in 1979.

In his memo, McDonough said Brown said he examined the sexual organs of some boys 15 times from 1948 to 1966.

Brown denied his contact “was sexual in nature,” McDonough wrote. “He recognizes its inappropriateness from the point of view of people’s perception.”

McDonough said he was left with the question of whether Brown “simply didn’t understand. … The alternative is that he is masking … a level of sexual fascination with adolescence that makes his current living situation a dangerous one.”

From 1949 to 1990 Brown was assigned to parishes in Maple Lake, Robbinsdale, St. Paul, Hopkins, Le Center, Waverly, Minneapolis, Marysburg, Faribault and Hazelwood, Minn.

In its statement Wednesday, the archdiocese said it “has repeatedly expressed concern for anyone alleging abuse.”

Brown was ‘average’ priest

On Wednesday, Brown greeted a reporter at the door of his third-floor, two-room apartment at Walker at Hazel Ridge, an assisted-living facility in Maplewood.

Sitting in an armchair in the sparsely furnished apartment, he described himself as an “average” priest. He denied McDonough’s statement that he had examined sexual organs of boys 15 times.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. “I hear what you say. I don’t recall doing this stuff. That’s all.”

Asked about other accusations of molestation, Brown said, “I don’t recall actually molesting.” But he said, “If it happened, I’d have to have remorse.”

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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