Archbishop Nienstedt, Bishop Piché resign

| June 15, 2015
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt

The Holy See announced June 15 that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has resigned his office. Bishop Lee Piché, an auxiliary bishop, has also resigned.

In a statement, Archbishop Nienstedt said he submitted his resignation to Pope Francis “in order to give the archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face.”

“The Catholic Church is not our Church, but Christ’s Church, and we are merely stewards for a time,” he said in a statement. “My leadership has unfortunately drawn away from the good works of his Church and those who perform them. Thus, my decision to step down.”

On June 5, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese alleging it failed to protect three boys who were sexually abused in 2008-2010 by Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest of the archdiocese. Wehmeyer was convicted of the abuse and is serving a five-year prison sentence. He was dismissed from the priesthood in March.

Archbishop Nienstedt, 68, was appointed coadjutor archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2007, and installed as its archbishop in June 2008. He succeeded Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, who retired in 2008. Prior to taking the helm of the archdiocese, Archbishop Nienstedt was bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, from 2001 to 2007, and auxiliary bishop of Detroit from 1996 to 2001.

“It has been my privilege the last seven years to serve this local Church,” Archbishop Nienstedt said in a statement. “I have come to appreciate deeply the vitality of the 187 parishes that make up the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I am grateful for the support I have received from priests, deacons, religious men and women and lay leaders, especially those who have collaborated with me in the oversight of this local Church.”

He added: “I leave with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure protection of minors and vulnerable adults.”
Archbishop Nienstedt requested prayers for “the well-being of this archdiocese and its future leaders.”

“I also ask for your continued prayers for me,” he said.

Bishop Piché, 57, was ordained a bishop for St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2009.
“The people of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis needed healing and hope. I was getting in the way of that, so I had to resign,” he said in a statement. “It has been a privilege to serve this local Church, and I will continue to hold everyone in the archdiocese in my prayers.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, coadjutor archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, has been named apostolic administrator of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He plans to serve both archdioceses until Pope Francis names Archbishop Nienstedt’s successor.

The archdiocese filed in January for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code amid mounting claims of clergy sexual abuse. In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature lifted the civil statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse for a three-year period.

In May, the archdiocese announced that it would sell archdiocesan offices, including the archbishop’s residence, as part of the Reorganization.

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