Pursuing the truth and restoring trust

| October 10, 2013

There is great concern and confusion about recent media reports alleging that the archdiocese has mishandled investigations into misconduct by priests. This situation is sad and frustrating, and I have heard from many of you that you are deeply pained as you watch and hear these reports in the news.

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

These are very disturbing issues, and I want to reassure everyone in the archdiocese and the community at large that I am taking the events of the past two weeks very seriously. In fact, I do not believe there is anything more important than urgently addressing these allegations and restoring trust.

My first priority is to create a process that guarantees the timely and unrestricted pursuit of the truth. To this end, I have taken the unprecedented step of appointing Father Reginald Whitt, a Dominican priest and a faculty member of the St. Thomas School of Law, as Episcopal Vicar.

In this role he will have absolute authority, which I am handing over to him, to:

1. assume full responsibility for all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct;

2. appoint an independent lay task force (Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force) to review any and all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct and to make specific recommendations regarding actions to be taken and policies and procedures to be implemented.

I have asked Father Whitt to fulfill this important role because he has consistently demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and commitment to the promotion of justice.

Once he has finalized the appointment of the members of this new independent task force, he will step away to allow it to do its work fully and unimpeded. He will not serve as a member of the task force.

It is my fervent hope that this new task force, with its unprecedented ability to review the full range of issues and questions associated with ensuring safe environments within our Church ministry, will begin a new era for us in this local Church. Truly, the steps I have authorized are new and the scope of this change is extraordinary.

When I began my service as your archbishop a little over five years ago, I did not know what was in store, but I knew that I had been given a sacred trust.

I know that we have experienced serious challenges as Catholics these past several years, and I have always tried to lead with a profound love for our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church. I have considered it a great privilege and blessing to be your archbishop, and I believe deeply in the good work that we are undertaking together.

These are difficult times. Yet, the Church has always faced and transcended the greatest of challenges to emerge stronger and more focused on what matters to God: love of Him and love of neighbor.

These periods of sanctification are opportunities for us to re-ground ourselves in what binds us together as Christian disciples: the redeeming and saving love of Jesus Christ. This is the gift of mercy and compassion that we treasure and want so deeply for others to experience. This is our highest calling.

Finally, I must share something very important with you. As I reflect on the current situation, I have carefully reflected on what I could have done better related to these most troubling matters in the news.

While I know we have made progress in so many areas these past many years, I am deeply troubled that we are still dealing with issues associated with clergy sexual abuse. It tells me that much more must be done. It tells me that we have serious gaps that must be addressed. And, as archbishop, I am your leader, and I am responsible for what happens in our Church. I accept that responsibility and all that this implies.

At present, I believe the best course is for the task force to complete its mission. I know they will conduct a thorough, just and independent review. We know something is wrong, but we will be well served by having the full record before us before we come to conclusions.

What is most important and pressing to me is that I do everything in my power to ensure safe environments where the Gospel of Jesus Christ can flourish. You have my full commitment that this is, and will remain, my most sacred trust.

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Category: That They May All Be One

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