Sunday, October 20, 2013

Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?

The Editorial Team

Are we headed for a SOSO (same old, same old)? Here we have an archdiocesan situation in which the current archbishop, though he has management skills, has been alienating people by his inability to relate and his consequent poor judgment since he took charge in 2008.

Now it is revealed that he ignored warnings of his chief legal officer that a priest might sexually abuse minors and appointed the priest pastor of two parishes where he did abuse minors.

What should happen? Is it about acknowledging failure, doing penance, and moving on? Or is it about sliding by with appearances of authority intact?

The cynical among us think that SOSO will happen. No need for detailed application of SOSO. Everyone has read the media reports, and everyone knows how SOSO works. The big money men get together and broker a deal. There have to be a certain number of resignations to assuage the community’s sense of justice. There have been enough media stories about various bad actors to weary and sicken the public so they will be satisfied if some heads roll and the subject leaves the front pages. There have been enough secondary heads to blame. Which of these also blameworthy officials can be enticed to resign their managerial functions, not giving up any priestly perks, to save the archbishop?

SOSO says law enforcement agencies and county attorneys are not brave enough to buck the huge institutions of religion. It is much easier to come in with insufficient evidence to charge with a crime.

Another requirement of SOSO is a Task Force to study the policies. We have one of those in this archdiocesan situation too.

Call us “unsophisticated,” but we are hoping SOSO does not happen. Jennifer Haselberger, the whistleblower, local law enforcement, and the local media have inspired us with hope that not all is SOSO.

Choosing hope rather than taking the cynic’s stance, we trust that the law enforcement agencies will do a thorough job and make an honest assessment of the evidence.

We trust that the Archdiocesan big donors will look at the best spiritual interests of the Archdiocese in wielding their influence on church management.

We trust that the officials who have already resigned will give interviews about what really happened, their roles in the debacle, and their hard won new understandings of how the church should operate.

We trust that even if he is not charged with a crime, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt will step down from the role of Archbishop for which he is not suited. If he were to emerge from the clerical culture, there are many roles in which he could serve admirably.

We trust that after John Nienstedt’s resignation, the Task Force will design and implement a working procedure for removing immature men from the priesthood and putting them in safe environments.

We trust that Pope Francis, as a first step, will instruct his U.S. delegate to seek recommendations from all the people in this archdiocese in replacing the Archbishop. We hope that he will continue that practice in each diocese when appointing leadership for them.

Who knows what other reforms could follow?

Related Off-site Links:
Retired Archbishop Harry Flynn Resigns from St. Thomas Trustees – Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio, October 19, 2013).
Could Archbishop Nienstedt Face Charges or Lose His Job? – Beth Hawkins (, October 14, 2013).
Archdiocese of Wobegon – Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, October 14, 2013).
Under Fire, Archbishop Nienstedt Scrambles to Respond – Jean Hopfensperger (Star Tribune, October 6, 2013).
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Unravelment Continues – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 6, 2013).

See also the previous PCV post:

"Trust Your Shepherds"


  1. I trust that some day Catholics will understand they don't need this kind of priesthood and the bishops it produces. Jesus did not ordain anybody.

  2. Hi, Colleen. Do you see a role for talented sacramental ministers--without all the clericalism? How do you see the role of the global institution in supporting psycho-spiritual growth? I'm thinking there is still a support role.

  3. Thanks 'Editors' --------- Neinstedt and Flynn and their top officials have inflicted heavy damages to MY church. Throw them out with the dirty water they used instead of the holy water they should have used. Bob Schwiderski

  4. Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis - Director of Task Force, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

    "Canon law is very eloquent on what a bishop is supposed to do, but there is no list of Thou Shalt Nots," says Father Reginald Whitt (2002). "These (sex abusers) are criminals, but they are our criminals and we can't lose them. Indeed, the bishops have a duty to try to save them," says the Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. (2002)

    "......BISHOPS HAVE A DUTY TO TRY TO SAVE THEM (sex abuser priests)....." Well, Fr. Whitt, where is it written (no, not in text or canon is written in one's heart and soul) that the bishops have a duty to try to save the CHILDREN ABUSED and INNOCENT CHILDREN from the risk of abuse?

    Seems like little has changed since these issues were studied over a decade ago by during the Dallas Charter Charade of the USCCB.

    Father Whitt has a degree in canon law and civil law. Which perspective will take prominence and priority when he reviews the findings of the task force committee he established to review the debacle in the archdiocese? It is humanly, ethically and morally IMPOSSIBLE to avoid/resolve the conflicts of interest from both perspectives (civil and canon law) when attempting to review and support the rights of priests vs the rights of child victims.

    Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Kansas City move over…………….here come the Twin Cities and their unique brand of US Catholic Church leadership.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

  5. "....He (McDonough) told the archbishop and Eisenzimmer that he had spoken with a nun who had expressed concerns about Keating over the years.

    The "bottom line" to that conversation, McDonough wrote, was that she was certain Keating had never committed a sexual act with any underage girl before or after his ordination.

    "On the other hand, she expressed a great deal of concern about a longstanding pattern of behavior that she knows to have influenced several women, including herself," McDonough wrote.

    "I proposed to her the phrase 'inattentive seductiveness' and she said that she thought that was very accurate," he wrote...."

    Okay, you make the call.......which of the two is more professional and ethical?.........Archdiocesan "investigative skills" or their "child protection skills"? Forget both items, where the hell is the LOGIC?

    In Philadelphia, our leadership uses the phrase "boundary violations" in place of your "inattentive seductiveness". The rest of the US Catholic faithful understand such conduct as "sexual abuse".

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (Retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept

  6. The church officials only take action when they are backed into a corner by victims and the media. And then they use the same m.o. as other dioceses who are found to be covering up sex crimes against innocent kids. Hiring more people, resigning from your position, or saying, "I'm sorry" does not protect kids.

    Actions need to be taken by legislators and law enforcement to hold these church officials responsible.
    The sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still covering up sex crimes against kids, they are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they still are not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by all the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids. Until they spend time behind bars for their crimes of cover up, nothing will change and children will still be sexually abused within this secret archaic system.

    Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day, so let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed will come forward and contact police, not the church officials. They are not the proper officials to be investigating child sex crimes.

    Silence is not an options anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.,
    "SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  7. Thanks for your comments, SNAP people. We are very grateful for your constant work to hold church officials accountable. I think that the average church member is longing for leadership that protects the children first without regard for the church's image. When officials act with integrity, the image takes care of itself.