After resignations, archdiocese moving forward

| July 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

Two days following his appointment as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda was in Rochester, meeting with the archdiocese’s priests gathered for an annual meeting.

He assured them of his support during the transition following the June 15 resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché.

A week later, on his second trip to St. Paul since his appointment, the apostolic administrator met with archdiocesan staff members and answered questions.

“I am excited to be able to see how this local Church, which has been such a stronghold in this part of the country, has been responding to God’s call,” he told them, noting that the Church has faced a variety of challenges over the centuries. “I look forward to learning from you.”

He recalled that he had first met Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens in Rome when then-Father Cozzens gave a retreat to seminarians. The two are expected to collaborate closely to lead the local Church until a new archbishop is named.

Archbishop Hebda plans to celebrate his first public Mass in the archdiocese 10 a.m. July 12 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

As coadjutor archbishop of Newark, Archbishop Hebda is positioned to succeed Archbishop John Myers upon his anticipated retirement next year. He will balance responsibilities in New Jersey and Minnesota until the Holy See appoints an archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Experts say the appointment could take months.

In the meantime, the archdiocese stated that it does not expect episcopal resignations to affect the archdiocese’s efforts to compensate alleged victims/survivors of abuse, which is part of its Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code under way since January.

Neither is it anticipated that the resignations will affect the criminal and civil charges the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed against the archdiocese June 5, alleging it failed to protect three boys who were sexually abused in 2008-2010 by Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest of the archdiocese who was removed from the clerical state in March 2015. He remains incarcerated. A court hearing on the charges against the archdiocese is set for July 17.

“The Ramsey County Attorney stated they will not affect the case, and Bishop Cozzens has reaffirmed the archdiocese’s commitment to working with [Ramsey County Attorney] John Choi and investigators from the St. Paul Police Department,” the archdiocese stated in a June 18 note to parishes.

The day-to-day activities of the parishes and schools of the archdiocese are also not expected to be affected during this interim period, the archdiocese stated. It is to be expected, however, that major decisions that are not deemed urgent will be deferred to the new archbishop.

“It is hard to say what the future will bring, but we have committed priests and lay leaders to guide us through these times, and the Eucharist to strengthen us,” the archdiocese stated in its June 18 note to parishes. “We are confident God will be with us.”

The archdiocese is now looking to the next milestone in its Reorganization process: the Aug. 3 filing deadline for all claimants, including those alleging sexual abuse by members of its clergy.

Attorneys representing victims/survivors alleging claims against the archdiocese filed a motion June 29 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court asking the judge to request that the archdiocese’s 187 parishes show a video during the weekend of July 11-12 designed to encourage previously unidentified victims of abuse to come forward.

Charles Rogers, an attorney from St. Paul-based law firm Briggs and Morgan who represents the archdiocese, said the archdiocese is reviewing the motion, which will be heard in court July 9.

“The archdiocese has complied with every directive from the court concerning notice and will continue to do so to ensure claimants know how to file a claim by the Aug. 3 claim-filing deadline,” he said in a statement.

The archdiocese has also extensively published notices of the Aug. 3 date in a variety of local, regional and national publications and on the archdiocese’s website; as well as alerted all of Minnesota’s licensed alcohol and addiction treatment centers; a court-appointed committee-compiled group of licensed therapists working with sexual abuse claimants; every sheriff’s office, prosecuting attorney, county clerk and hospital/medical director in the 12-county metro area; every Minnesota diocese; local representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; local attorneys representing sexual abuse victims; every parish in the archdiocese; every archdiocesan high school where an alleged abuser worked. It has also established a hotline dedicated to the notice of claims.

In the aftermath of their resignations, Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché are still discerning what their futures might hold, Archbishop Hebda told The Catholic Spirit. By virtue of their ordinations, they remain priests and bishops despite their resignations.

Tags: , ,

Category: Featured, Local News