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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch - Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Archbishop John Nienstedt denies any abuse cover-up

  • Archbishop John Nienstedt, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm from 2001 until 2007, when he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is under scrutiny over how he handled clergy misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
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  • Archbishop John Nienstedt, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm from 2001 until 2007, when he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is under scrutiny over how he handled clergy misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
    A Minnesota Public Radio news investigation found that church officials disregarded concerns over priest misconduct over the past 10 years.
    In an e-mail response to that investigation, Nienstedt denied any abuse cover-up and expressed regret that some parishioners and priests have lost confidence in him over these concerns.
    "As head of this local church, I accept responsibility for addressing the issues that have been raised and am completely committed to finding the truth and fixing the problems that exist," Nienstedt wrote. "My highest priorities are to ensure the safety of our children and to restore the trust of Catholics and our clergy. I will do everything in my power to do so." 
    Nienstedt went on to say that the archdiocese's policies and procedures "may not have been uniformly followed and that is a serious issue we have been addressing." 
    The Archbishop created a task force in late September to investigate issues associated with clergy sexual abuse after whistleblower, former canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger, went public with claims that archdiocese leaders mishandled allegations of clergy sexual misconduct.
    "There are no offending priests in active ministry in our archdiocese," Nienstedt wrote. "Anyone who is a known danger to a minor or vulnerable adult is immediately removed from ministry and investigated." 
    In recent reports, Nienstedt announced he has hired an outside firm to review all priests' files at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
    The review will begin with all priests in active ministry, he said. Reviewers will look for any indication of sexual misconduct, illegal behavior, financial mismanagement and possible violations of canon law. There is no deadline.
    There have been public calls for Nienstedt to resign and his deputy has stepped down, although he has not offered to resign.
    He apologized to victims in a column posted on the website of the Catholic Spirit, the archdiocese's official newspaper, and said he knows the ultimate responsibility lies with him as head of the local church.
    "My heart is heavy with the agony that these errors have caused," he wrote.
    The Star Tribune reported Oct. 24 that the archdiocese spent nearly $11 million from 2003 to 2012 to cover costs associated with cases of sexual misconduct by priests. The figure includes payments to victims, as well as costs of supporting priests who have been removed from active ministry due to misconduct.
    Nienstedt was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm on Aug. 6, 2001 at St. Mary's Church in Sleepy Eye. Nienstedt was the third Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm.
    Page 2 of 2 - On April 24, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Nienstedt Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he also remained as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of New Ulm until Dec. 13, 2007. He succeeded Archbishop Harry J. Flynn as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on May 2, 2008.
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