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Minnesota archbishop accused of sexual misconduct

July 02, 2014

Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has announced that he is the subject of an investigation for misconduct that does not “involve minors or lay members of the faithful.”

“Upon my direction, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is conducting an internal investigation involving allegations made against me,” he said. “These allegations are absolutely and entirely false. Nonetheless, I ordered [Auxiliary] Bishop Lee Piché to oversee an independent, thorough investigation and that he hire an outside firm unaffiliated with the archdiocese to conduct the investigation.”

“The allegations do not involve minors or lay members of the faithful, and they do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior,” he added. “The allegations involve events alleged to have occurred at least a decade ago, before I began serving in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

Archbishop Nienstedt’s statement-- along with a statement from Bishop Piché that the allegations were lodged “several months ago”-- followed the publication of comments by Jennifer Haselberger, who served as the archdiocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs from 2008 until 2013.

Haselberger told Commonweal that she had been interviewed about the alleged misconduct by a Minneapolis law firm, Greene Espel.

“Based on my interview with Greene Espel-- as well as conversations with other interviewees-- I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” she said. “He also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.”

The allegations are a “personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage,” Archbishop Nienstedt said in a statement issued to Commonweal. “I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone.”

“The allegations are a decade old or more, prior to my service as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” he added.

A spokesman for the local county attorney’s office told Minnesota Public Radio that the archdiocese had informed the office on March 28 about an “investigation of Archbishop Nienstedt involving allegations of sexual conduct with an adult.”

In December, the prelate removed himself from public ministry in December after being accused of inappropriately touching a minor’s buttocks during a post-Confirmation photograph. In March, he resumed his ministry after the county attorney’s office found insufficient evidence to prosecute.


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jul. 04, 2014 11:11 AM ET USA

    The homoselual terrorists and the contingency lawyers have found that they can bully anyone into silence or into a quick financial settlement. We need to pray that the Bishop will stand his ground.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jul. 02, 2014 8:08 AM ET USA

    It is not at all uncommon to see priests posing in pictures or even routinely hugging parishioners etc. This was not alwasy the case. Its certainly understandable as a legitimate desire to show legitimate affection. However, there are still priests around who will pose for pictures only with hands visible in front or by the side. They avoid physical contact with the faithful. There is a wisdom in this, particularly in an age like ours, sadly, where false allegations happen all the time.