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Episode 101: Deposition of Father Jerome Kern

On April 15, 2014, Father Jerome Kern, a priest in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, was deposed as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit filed in Minnesota. While Kern does not admit to sexually abusing children in the deposition, he does admit to “horsing around” with young boys, and doing something he calls “Italian wrestling.” He claims that his only sexual outlet is “masturbation” to fantasies about “ladies,” though he admits he may be bisexual. He describes putting his hand on one boy’s stomach, chest, lower stomach, and inside his bathing suit while swimming, and touching another boy’s genitals on the outside of his swimsuit and touching his chest and stomach in the sauna.

At 72, Kern is (or appears to be) shaky, absent-minded, and forgetful. He says he’s tired, has problems remembering, and is unfamiliar with modern terms like “sexual abuse.” While he admits that he came to realize that it was wrong to “give hugs and horse around,” he presents himself as a man from another age who is surprised to find his good intentions have been misinterpreted. The deposition aims, in part, to discover the extent of the church’s cover-up, since the Archdiocese received reports of Kern’s inappropriate sexual misconduct with minor children as early as 1969, yet Kern remained in ministry until 2002.

In 1987, the mothers of two boys abused by Father Kern met with senior church leaders to discuss the allegations, but were brushed off. Eventually, Al Michaud, one of Father Kern’s victims,  filed a lawsuit against Kern and the Archdiocese, which was settled out of court.

Listen to the episode here.