Twin Cities attorney Thomas L. Johnson recently announced he is stepping down from his position as ombudsperson for clerical sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis – a role in which Tom has served since January of 2018. The former Hennepin County Attorney cited health challenges as the reason for his decision. The position of ombudsperson resulted from the Settlement Agreement reached by the Archdiocese with the Ramsey County Attorney’s office in December of 2015 and amended in July of 2016. The ombudsperson acts as an outside resource for individuals having questions or concerns about clerical sexual abuse within the Archdiocese, and is entirely independent of the Archdiocese and of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
As for his time as ombudsperson, Johnson said, “The opportunity to help victims on a personal level, often being the first person to whom they disclose their abuse, has been very powerful, far beyond what I anticipated. In fact, it has been an experience which opened my heart in ways that often don’t occur, particularly in the professional experience of lawyers. So while it is a voluntary position, I was well compensated!” He added, “I was honored to be chosen as the first ombudsman and to be a small part of the vital changes in how the Archdiocese sees its role relative to victim-survivors: New people brought new leadership, new approaches, new policies and more transparency. The opportunity to observe this up-close was profound.”
Archbishop Bernard Hebda expressed his gratitude for Tom’s willingness to serve as a listening ear and advocate, saying, “Knowing of Tom’s compassion and commitment to justice, I always knew that those turning to the ombudsperson would be well-served. He brought an integrity to the position that quickly made him an invaluable collaborator in our efforts to redress the harms suffered by those who have suffered abuse.”
Immediately replacing Tom as ombudsperson is his wife, Victoria Newcome Johnson. Victoria is an experienced attorney, educator, parish administrator and consultant specializing in healing. She earned her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law, served as Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, and in recent years has been involved in restorative justice, social justice, and other healing ministries including at her parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis.
Victoria is looking forward to this new challenge, saying, “Over the years, my personal and professional passion has centered on helping people heal from traumatic emotional experiences. The ombudsperson position, which will give me the opportunity to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse who are struggling with how to find help when they lack trust in the Church, is a heartfelt and humbling opportunity for me. As for Tom, I know his service as Ombudsman was challenging, yet deeply moving and rewarding. I am honored to follow in his footsteps, and continue this important work.”
“I could not be more at peace with the blessing of having Victoria Johnson step forward to volunteer her skills and talents as the new ombudsperson for the Archdiocese. I have no doubt that Victoria will carry forward the work that her husband Tom started and nurtured and will be a valuable asset to those in need of assistance and special attention,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. “We owe a great deal of gratitude to both Tom and Victoria for their selfless service to the public interest and the catholic faithful community.”
Victoria Johnson may be reached directly at 612-990-0022 or via email at email@example.com.