The alleged victim in a new lawsuit against the Diocese of Winona gave up his anonymity on Thursday. Previously identified as Plaintiff Doe 16, Bill Beardmore, 61, of Iowa, spoke publicly for the first time about allegedly being sexually assaulted by former Diocese of Winona priest Thomas Adamson. The negligence suit filed on Wednesday in Winona seeks over $50,000 in damages and hopes to force the diocese to release a list of priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse.
“I was raped several times,” Beardmore said at a press conference in Rochester. Beardmore was an altar boy in Caledonia when he was allegedly raped between 1963 and 1964. “It was a terrible, terrible thing,” he continued. After years of keeping quiet and feeling ashamed about what happened to him, “my faith is gone; my trust is gone,” he said.
Diocese of Winona Director of Mission Advancement Joel Hennessy said that the diocese made mistakes in the past by not bringing forward reports and knowledge of abuse. “The diocese has taken very seriously what has happened in the past and has adopted very stringent, very transparent policies to prevent that from happening again,” he said.
“Sexual abuse of any human being is unacceptable and a horrendous offense,” Hennessy wrote in a statement. The credibly accused priests are either dead or no longer in ministry and the diocese is confident that its programs are “exceptionally safe places for all people,” he continued.
Beardmore kept his composure as he retold the alleged abuse by his priest and how it changed his life, only choking up when he described telling the diocese and his family of the abuse. They did not believe him. Beardmore’s family quickly turned around. His mother suggested that if his father had known at the time, Adamson might not have survived. The diocese, however, refuted Beardmore’s claims, according to letters from 2002 between Beardmore and the diocese.
Hennessy acknowledged the letters, but said that, currently, the diocese was neither denying nor confirming Beardmore’s allegations.
Beardmore’s is the latest in a series of renewed charges against Adamson and the diocese since a new state law lifted the statute of limitations on civil child abuse cases. “Now that state of Minnesota has changed the law, I think there should be some accountability. Not just for the priests, but the diocese and bishops who held this back,” Beardmore said.
Beardmore explained that he stepped into the public light to empower other victims who remain silent. “I want other people to know that they can now step forward, with the new law, and make it known and give some closure to what has happened to them,” Beardmore said. “You don’t have to feel like I did.” He continued, “I felt like I was the person that did something bad. I was a little kid. I was an altar boy. I’m the one that was taken advantage of. They did this to me.” Beardmore’s attorney called him courageous for speaking out.
As the news crews left the scene, Beardmore let his emotional guard down and cried from the weight of his testimony. His lawyer embraced him and told him, “You did it, man.”
Hennessy declined to comment when asked if allegations that the church protected Adamson were true. Beardmore’s lawyer has published what appear to be memos from former Winona bishops discussing Adamson’s abuse and plans to transfer the priest and minimize publicity. Jeff Anderson, Beardmore’s attorney, states that the memos were released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul as part of another case.