By Rev. Michael V. Tegeder
"Trust Your Shepherds." These words were spoken a few years ago by Archbishop John Nienstedt to a woman who was the victim of one of our recently ordained priests. After hearing that the priest was appointed as pastor of a parish some 40 miles from the Chancery offices, she raised her reasonable concerns only to be dismissed with the above words.
Since then we have had the recent case of the priest who impregnated his subordinate staff member, helping to break-up her marriage. The Archbishop then appointed him to the marriage tribunal where he judged others' marriages, potentially judging the very marriage he affected.
On another front, the Archbishop, apparently against the judgment of his main financial adviser, ended the Archdiocesan lay pension plan, breaking the promise made to long-term employees, many of whom are single women who have received very modest compensation for their dedicated ministries. And under his watch we hear that the head of the Archdiocese's accounting department embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there was the Archbishop's crusade against gay and lesbian people's committed relationships – a campaign that saw a million dollars spent in an attempt to change our State Constitution to limit the rights of people, many of whom are not Catholic. And he continues to insist on the termination of employees whose only failing is to love another person. (Thank God that our new pope, Francis, rejects this culture war mentality.)
And now we have the investigative report on Father Curtis Wehmeyer by Minnesota Public Radio. This is no longer the case of "what did he know and when did he know it." MPR provides a helpful timeline which sadly documents major malfeasance in assigning this convicted sexual predator.
So far the Archbishop has hid behind the inadequate press releases sent out by his two recently hired, high priced public relations consultants. Last Sunday, Catholics heard the gospel passage, that if you cannot trust a person in small things, how can you trust them in something of major consequence. None of these failures are small things.
Archbishop Nienstedt needs to personally and publicly address this latest breach of trust. A new direction is needed, starting at the top of our Archdiocese.
Rev. Michael V. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis and of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. This commentary was originally written for inclusion in Fr. Tegeder's "Pastor's Comments" in the September 29, 2013 parish bulletin of St. Frances Cabrini Church.
Related Off-site Links:
Archdiocese Knew of Priest's Sexual Misbehavior, Yet Kept Him in Ministry – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio, September 23, 2013).
Twin Cities Archdiocese Knew of Priest's Compulsions, Report Says – Associated Press via The Star Tribune (September 23, 2013).