Nearly three months after he stepped down from public ministry, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis will return to his administrative and ministerial duties immediately, the archdiocese has announced. Archbishop Nienstedt stepped aside so that an investigation into allegations that he inappropriately touched a minor nearly five years ago could proceed; it was announced on Tuesday that the archbishop will not be charged in the case.
[Archbishop Nienstedt] had been accused of touching a male minor’s buttocks during a group photo following a May 5, 2009 confirmation.
On Tuesday, the criminal division director of the Ramsey County Attorney, Richard Dusterhoft, wrote that “this case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and should not be charged.”
It “seems unlikely that the Archbishop … would pick that moment to sexually touch a random boy openly in front of another clergy member, a deacon, and numerous other confirmands while the confirmands’ family members were preparing to document the moment in photographs,” Dusterhoft stated.
“It appears from the photograph that the Archbishop would have to bend to reach the male’s buttocks and that any such action would have likely been witnessed by others present.”
The boy had told his mother about the alleged incident, but also said he didn’t feel violated, nor did he think it was significant.
Archbishop Nienstedt released a statement through the archdiocese:
“I am thankful to the Saint Paul Police for their thorough investigation, as well as to the Ramsey County Attorney’s office for their professional work regarding this matter. I look forward to returning to public ministry during this Lenten season, especially during Holy Week and the great feast of Easter,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “While I look forward to my return to public ministry, I remain committed to the ongoing work needed to provide safe environments for all children and youth. I continue to offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities, as well as to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. I once again offer my apology to all who have been affected by these terrible offenses.”