Former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt denies misconduct, said he was targeted for opposing gay marriage

[Former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop] Nienstedt denies misconduct, said he was targeted for opposing gay marriage

Background from Catholic World News:

Memo: nuncio curtailed investigation of Minnesota archbishop

July 21, 2016

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, then apostolic nuncio to the United States, directed that an investigation into Archbishop John Nienstedt’s alleged homosexual activity be curtailed, and subsequently asked two auxiliary bishops to destroy a letter about the case, according to a 2014 memo released on July 20 by prosecutors in Minnesota.

The memo’s author, identified in press reports as Father Daniel Griffith, served as liaison between the archdiocese and members of the investigative team. Archbishop Nienstedt, then archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, authorized the investigation into his alleged homosexual activity in January 2014.

In the memo—written in July 2014 after the investigation ceased—Father Griffith recounted in detail the history of the investigation. By April, ten affidavits contained “compelling” allegations of “sexual misconduct; sexual harassment; reprisals in response to the rejection of unwelcome advances; and excessive drinking.”

“Even if the Archbishop was innocent, the evidence was damaging enough that it would render him incapable of leading the Archdiocese,” wrote Father Griffith, who noted that the investigators still had 24 leads to pursue.

Auxiliary Bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzens traveled to Washington to meet with the apostolic nuncio in the hopes of achieving a “pastoral solution” in which Archbishop Nienstedt resigned. Subsequently, the nuncio ordered the investigation curtailed—leading the auxiliary bishops to write a letter to the nuncio expressing their disagreement with that decision. According to the memo, the nuncio then asked the bishops to destroy their letter.

“The destruction of evidence is a crime under federal law and state law and the fact that this request was made of you by a papal representative to the United States is most distressing,” Father Griffith, who is also an attorney, said in his memo to Bishop Piché.

In the memo, Father Griffith also said that Archbishop Nienstedt’s predecessor, Archbishop Harry Flynn, traveled to Rome to express his concerns about Archbishop Nienstedt’s alleged lifestyle to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché both resigned in 2015.

The release of the memo and other documents came along with an announcement that county prosecutors would not press criminal charges against the archdiocese in the case of Father Curtis Wehmeyer, who was assigned to a parish despite the archdiocese’s knowledge that he solicited sex from 19-year-old and 20-year-old males. Father Wehmeyer– described by Father Griffith as having a “social relationship” with Archbishop Nienstedt– subsequently abused two adolescents at the parish and is serving a five-year prison term.

The current archbishop, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apologized for the archdiocese’s failure to prevent the abuse. In return for dropping of criminal charges, the archdiocese agreed to expand an agreement that had already been reached with law-enforcement officials last December, giving public officials authority to monitor and supervise the archdiocese in its handling of abuse complaints. That December agreement, in turn, had been struck in order to settle civil complaints against the archdiocese.

PUBLISHED: July 21, 2016

John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said accusations of sexual misconduct against him were part of a false smear campaign in response to his opposition to gay marriage.

Nienstedt’s denial came in a statement Wednesday night, first issued to KSTP and Minnesota Public Radio. That followed the release of internal church documents alleging the Vatican had sought to derail an independent investigation that turned up credible evidence against him.

Nienstedt resigned last year as archbishop and returned to his home state of Michigan.

He said the accusations — which range from him frequenting gay clubs to making unwanted advances toward priests and seminary students — were decades old and baseless. He said he believes they’re “due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Catholic Church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same sex marriage.

“Such personal attacks were first made when I defended the Church’s opposition to admitting openly homosexual men to the priesthood,” he said. “These attacks grew even more vicious when I began to speak out against so-called same sex marriage.”

He said he also thinks the accusers “are bringing false allegations forward in retribution for difficult decisions I have made as their superior,” adding that privacy laws limit what we can say.

Nienstedt said he isn’t gay, has been celibate his whole life, and “never solicited sex, improperly touched anyone and have not used my authority to cover up, or even try to cover up, any allegation of sexual abuse.”

Some of the accusers said he interfered with their careers after they rebuked his advances. In internal memos released Wednesday, a priest with ties to the investigation said the law firm conducting it — which collected 10 sworn affidavits from accusers and others interviewed — found the allegations to be credible.

Nienstedt also apologized for the way the archdiocese handled sexual abuse allegations against Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest who eventually pleaded guilty to abusing boys.

Meanwhile, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday that “the situation is complex” and that it needs more information before commenting, the Associated Press reported.

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