Updated: 06/24/2014 6:24 PM
Created: 06/24/2014 11:19 AM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart
In a deposition released Tuesday, a former priest says he was never disciplined for allegations of abusing children in his decades-long career with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Father Jerome Kern worked at St. Mark's in St. Paul after being ordained in 1966.
During the April 15 deposition, he was asked when the last time was that he engaged a child in some form of sexual contact; Kern replied it had been 35 years. At the time, he didn't think his contact with some young boys was sexually abusive.
Kern was first reported to the archdiocese in 1969. Parents of three different child victims had come to church officials with reports of abuse earlier that year.
Kern said he met with the parents and explained he was horsing around with the children, according to Kern's deposition.
"I thought it was appropriate to wrestle, to hug someone," Kern said during the deposition. "I grew up doing that. And, see, I never thought of it as sexual. That's the difference, you know."
Kern told investigators he was never disciplined after he was reported and continued in the ministry at St. Mark's in St. Paul. Kern said he was never told it was wrong.
He was later transferred to Lady of Grace in Edina at the end of 1969. He allegedly abused 11 people while at Lady of Grace. He was assigned to Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka in 1976, where he became co-pastor.
Al Michaud says he was abused by Kern while he was in Minnetonka and met with then-Vicar General Kevin McDonough to report the abuse.
When Michaud followed up with McDonough two weeks later to see what had been done about Kern, McDonough allegedly told him he was too busy to deal with it. Michaud filed a lawsuit against Kern and the archdiocese, which was later settled.
In a deposition, Kern admitted to touching Michaud on the outside of his swimsuit, along with his chest and stomach. As part of the settlement, Kern was not to work in another parish or be around children.
In 1996, Kern was assigned to St. Peter's in Forest Lake. The parish includes a grade school and religious program.
McDonough eventually told Kern to resign in 2002, fearing Kern would come under attack for the previous allegations against him.
In the April deposition, Kern says he was never interviewed by law enforcement about the allegations against him. When asked what made him stop, Kern says the lawsuit with Michaud and his own awareness of his behavior.
"I just gradually realized that you cannot give these hugs, you know, to anybody really," Kern said during the deposition. "I don't know a point in time, if that's what you're asking, you know, but that was just a gradual thing I learned."