Archbishop voluntarily steps aside from public ministry following allegation

| December 17, 2013

Archbishop John Nienstedt is voluntarily stepping aside from all public ministry, effective immediately, while St. Paul Police investigate an allegation that he inappropriately touched a male minor on the buttocks in 2009 during a group photography session following a confirmation ceremony.

In a Dec. 17 letter to the faithful, Archbishop Nienstedt called the allegation “absolutely and entirely false.”

“I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with whom I disagree,” he said.

“True, I am a sinner, but my sins do not include any kind of abuse of minors,” he said. “I have met victims and I know the lasting damage that such abuse causes.”

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, in his role as a vicar general, will cover all of the archbishop’s public duties while the matter is being investigated, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Father Charles Lachowitzer continues in his position as a vicar general and moderator of the curia.

The allegation of the single incident was brought to the police by a mandated reporter within the Church. Upon learning of the allegation last week, the archdiocese instructed the mandated reporter to make the matter known to the police.

“The archdiocese is mindful of the due process concerns of those involved,” the statement said. “There must be justice and due consideration of the rights and dignity of every human person, both the individual involved and the archbishop. This is not only the bedrock of our beliefs as Catholics, but also of the justice system of our country.

“The steps taken in response to the allegation against the archbishop demonstrate and reaffirm the archdiocese’s commitment to disclosure.

These steps further confirm that all within the archdiocese will be subject to the internal policies we have established. This is the position of the archdiocese and the archbishop himself. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the individual involved and the archbishop as justice is pursued and all may move forward on a path toward healing.”

In his letter, Archbishop Nienstedt said the identity of the person who made the allegation has not been made known to him. The archbishop pointed out that he normally stands for confirmation photos “with one hand on my crozier (staff) and the other either on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed or on my pallium (the short stole), which hangs from my chest. I do that deliberately and there are hundreds of photographs to verify that fact.”

Archbishop Nienstedt’s column in this issue (see page 3) will be his last for The Catholic Spirit until the investigation is complete.

“I hope that the investigations can be thorough but quick,” he wrote in his letter. “I already long to be back in public ministry — to be able to serve as the Lord has called me to serve.”

“These days will give me the time to pray for you and the individual involved,” he added. “I ask that you pray for me too.”

Category: Local News

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