U.S. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis concelebrates Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in March 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Today the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced
that Archbishop John Nienstedt is stepping down from public ministry during the
investigation of a claim that he inappropriately touched a minor four years
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is
voluntarily stepping aside from all public ministry, effective immediately,
while St. Paul police investigate an allegation that he inappropriately touched
a male minor on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photography session
following a confirmation ceremony.
Dec. 17 letter to Catholics of the archdiocese, Archbishop Nienstedt called the
allegation "absolutely and entirely false."
have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have
tried to the very best of my ability to serve this archdiocese and the church
faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with
whom I disagree," he said.
I am a sinner, but my sins do not include any kind of abuse of minors," he
said. "I have met victims and I know the lasting damage that such abuse
Bishop Lee A. Piche, in his role as a vicar general, will cover all of the
archbishop's public duties while the matter is being investigated, according to
a Dec. 17 statement from the archdiocese. Father Charles Lachowitzer continues
in his position as a vicar general and moderator of the curia.
allegation of the single incident was brought to the police by a mandated
reporter within the church. Upon learning of the allegation a week ago, the
archdiocese instructed the mandated reporter to make the matter known to the
Nienstedt’s letter to his flock about the allegation
and investigation appears in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit:
Please allow me to say that I normally
stand for those photos with one hand on my crozier (staff) and the other either
on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed or on my pallium (the short
stole), which hangs from my chest. I do that deliberately and there are
hundreds of photographs to verify that fact.
I do not know the individual involved;
he has not been made known to me. I presume he is sincere in believing what he
claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false. …
I hope that the investigations can be
thorough but quick. I already long to be back in public ministryto be able to
serve as the Lord has called me to serve.
I regret this will be my last column
until the present investigations are complete. These days will give me the time
to pray for you and the individual involved. I ask that you pray for me too.
Just two days ago, Archbishop
Nienstedt apologized for the archdiocese’s handling of past allegations of
abuse by clergy. “The negative news reports
about past incidents of clerical sexual abuse in this local Church have rightly
been met with shame, embarrassment and outrage that such heinous acts could be
perpetrated by men who had taken priestly vows as well as bishops who failed to
remove them from ministry,” Nienstedt said during a homily at Our Lady of Grace
Church in Edina. “I am here to apologize for the indignation that you
justifiably feel. You deserve better.”
He told reporters afterward that when he arrived at his
post as archbishop seven years he was told that abuse investigations “had been
taken care of.”
“Unfortunately I believed that,” he said. “And so my biggest apology
today is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more
than I did.”