Former priest Jerome Kern says fondling was confused for "Italian wrestling"

Categories: Crime, Religion
jerome_kern.jpg
Deposition footage of Jerome Kern
In the summer of 1969, word spread back to Father Jerome Kern that the parents of two boys who attended the Church of St. Mark in St. Paul were upset with him. The parishioners claimed that Kern had been rough-housing during a trip to Lake Nokomis Beach and slid his hand repeatedly into their kids' cut-off jeans.

The priest's response would later be described by church officials as "brazen," even downright "insensitive." Kern told the parents that he had merely engaged in a little game he picked overseas known as "Italian wrestling." The rules were simple and sound like something straight out of Satyricon: each man jostles while attempting to grasp at the other's genitals.

See also:
Thomas Adamson coldly confesses to sexually abusing children as a priest

This story and others like it emerged Tuesday out of the hundreds of pages of documents that are being released in anticipation of a civil lawsuit involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by crusading attorney Jeffrey Anderson.

In a taped deposition, also made public, Kern admits to having touched three boys. But he says no one in a position of authority ever reprimanded him, let alone told him that his actions were wrong, during the three decades in which allegations of sexual abuse followed him as he moved around the Twin Cities metro.

"He's going to be, when it's all said and done, one of the most prolific perpetrators in the archdiocese," says Mike Finnegan, one of the attorneys who deposed Kern. Church officials "kept putting him out there to the community as safe."

Indeed, the archdiocese responded in 1969 by reassigning Kern to Our Lady of Grace in Edina, where he allegedly abused 11 more children. He wound up next at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka, and by 1982, Kern had been accused of abusing at least 20 children.

When the boys from Lake Nokomis Beach poked their heads back up in 1987, as adults, Vicar General Michael O'Connell sent Kern off for a psychological evaluation at a church-run clinic in New Mexico. A letter to the clinic reads in part: "Knowing what we know now about pedophilia and about how it is rarely a singular act, we would have some reason to question Fr. Kern's insistence that the event ... was a singular act."

O'Connell goes so far as to ask that Kern not be given a copy of this letter, because he suspects that Kern has not been completely honest about what happened on Lake Nokomis Beach back in 1969.

When reached for comment, Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, pointed back to Kern's testimony, saying the transcript spoke for itself.

Kern was removed from ministry in 2002, and his name appears on the list of credibly accused priests that the archdiocese released in December 2013.

 -- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to jmarx@citypages.com



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43 comments
Cammy Sumner
Cammy Sumner

Not sure how this person who is supposed to be someone you can trust thought it was ever ok to touch anyone like that without their permission..... over and over again these cases with catholic priests abusing children proves to me that the catholic church needs to allow ALL priests to get married if they so choose. Also that the catholic church would rather sweep this stuff under the rug than actually protect their parishioners! its so ridiculous! TIME FOR SOME REFORM!

Linda Smith
Linda Smith

He can have all the sick fun games he likes in prison!

Tiffany Huiting
Tiffany Huiting

They just spread the sickness from one community of people to another very pathetic

Erik Seavey
Erik Seavey

They must just eat the girl babies and save the boys for sex.

Stefanie Megan Brown
Stefanie Megan Brown

His congregation should be ashamed not only of him but of themselves for not getting with the program. Fuck this dude & everybody covering for him

Paul Bailey
Paul Bailey

I'd like to "Italian choke slam" him into a bear trap

Kim Wattier Vecchi
Kim Wattier Vecchi

I'm married to an Italian and we don't call that wrestling...This sick bastard scumbag needs to be locked up.

Brian Skalak
Brian Skalak

I always thought Italian wrestling consisted of the Hogan leg drop

Paul Hitchcock
Paul Hitchcock

Crap like what these "Abusers" can get away with, is why I don't practice faith anymore.

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

To my fellow commenters......................you did not disappoint. 

Valorie Woodhull
Valorie Woodhull

Disgusting pedophiles being protected by a church...how bout public castration for all of them?

SidVicious
SidVicious

Anyone still attending a catholic church and giving any money to the church supports pedophilia, plain and simple. It's out in the open. They don't think what they're doing is wrong. They've admitted it. They honestly believe pedophilia is acceptable. 


If you give money to the catholic church, you're a pedophile by proxy.

Madison Allen
Madison Allen

As an Italian from New York, I can confirm there's no such thing as Italian wrestling

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

Quick, lets all buy some tickets to Basilica Block Party so we can financially support these assholes.

Dick Senese
Dick Senese

Go to jail do not pass Go. Relinquished tax-free status. What is the problem with our criminal justice and legislative authorities?!?

Dean131
Dean131

"Italian wrestling" - submitted to urban dictionary

BizkitNGravy
BizkitNGravy

I can't believe that people still give money to this corporation who refuses to punish their own people for sexually assaulting the public. Religion hasn't been relevant for a couple hundred years anyways people, give it up.

Greg Hernandez
Greg Hernandez

You had me at "summer of '69". Also, execute this man.

Tony Bones
Tony Bones

lol these sick puppies I tell ya. smh

Nick Holm
Nick Holm

No form of wrestling ever involved "grabbing junk"

Chad Howard
Chad Howard

Give it up you sick fuck, your pedophile ways are finally coming to light time to face the music!

BizkitNGravy
BizkitNGravy

These people need to be held accountable. Disgusting.

Amanda Odegard
Amanda Odegard

Instead of owning up to your sickness you continue to find excuses and lies. Sick mo fo

eyetod
eyetod

what a piece of shit. 


ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

I can't wait for the comments on this sad and disturbing story.

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

Italian Wrestling? Perhaps our fellow readers who's names end in a vowel or who's middle names are "The" could elaborate. Is Italian Wrestling the next Olympic Sport. Is there a woman's version of Italian Wrestling?

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

My wife went to Our Lady of Grace and remembers him as being a cool priest until one day at Sunday mass the congregation was told he was gone with no explanation.

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