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Winona Diocese: We're obligated to pay pedophile priest

WINONA — The Diocese of Winona only pays a monthly pension to a defrocked pedophile priest because it is legally obligated to do so, even though he committed "horrific crimes" against children, the diocese said.

Thomas Adamson acknowledged in a legal deposition last month that he sexually abused 12 teens as he was moved from one parish to another from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. He has been laicized, but he continues to receive a monthly pension of about $1,650 from the diocese.

The revelations were made public June 11 by a law firm suing the diocese. The diocese didn't immediately respond but since has issued a statement acknowledging receiving criticism over the disclosure.

The statement said Adamson is only getting paid because his benefits are required by law, not a voluntary gift from the diocese.

The money comes from the diocesan Priest Pension Fund, which provides retirement income and health-care benefits to retired clergy. A priest who has served the diocese and contributed to the fund for 10 years is vested in the plan, and his right to receive benefits from the plan is protected by state and federal law.


"The Diocese cannot elect to withhold vested pension benefits from employees even when the employee has committed misconduct," the statement said. "The Diocese of Winona strictly adheres to the legal obligations associated with the pension plan."

Adamson was removed from active ministry in 1985 after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused boys in parishes where he had been assigned. He was defrocked in 2009.

The statute of limitations had expired in those cases, and he has never been criminally charged. His attorney, Mark Gehan, has said he would not talk about the case.

The diocese said Adamson's laicization didn't remove the diocese's obligation to honor his pension payments.

"The continued payment of Thomas Adamson's pension benefits should not be viewed in any fashion as condoning or supporting the horrific crimes he has perpetrated upon children," the diocese said.

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