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Catholic World News

Discipline of Archbishop Nienstedt raises questions about Vos Estis

February 01, 2024

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CWN Editor's Note: J.D. Flynn of The Pillar remarks that the disciplinary treatment of Archbishop John Nienstedt illustrates the limitations of the Vos Estis investigations that were introduced as a means of ensuring both accountability and transparency in the handling of complaints against bishops.

Archbishop Nienstedt, who resigned in 2015 as Archbishop of St. Paul—Minneapolis, was the subject of a Vos Estis investigation which concluded with a finding that he had not been guilty of any canonical delict. Nevertheless because of his “imprudent” handling of abuse complaints, restrictions were placed on his ministry. He is forbidden to live in the territory of his former archdiocese, and may exercise ministry in other dioceses only with the consent of the local bishop.

The public announcement of these restrictions marks an unprecedented level of candor in a disciplinary case involving a bishop. Yet the Vatican has not disclosed why Archbishop Nienstedt is subject to punishment despite not having committed a canonical crime. Indeed the nature of his “imprudent” offenses has not been disclosed, and the archbishop himself says that he does not know why his ministry is restricted.

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