Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"


By Bob Beutel

Note: On November 9, 2013 approximately 200 Catholics gathered outside the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to call on Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to resign. One of the speakers at this event was Bob Beutel (right), co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). Following is the transcript of Bob's speech.

We are here today to express the faithful’s loss of confidence in the administration of Archbishop John Nienstedt and to ask for his resignation.

We won’t recite the litany of our issues with him, but they can be summarized as followed:

He sows division among Catholics and among the public at large by excluding members of the GLBT community, women, abuse victims,and critics.

He intimidates his priests, his staffers, his critics, and the victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse.

He wastes our money on partisan political campaigns and holds himself unaccountable despite a pledge to be transparent.

He has embarrassed and shamed our holy Church.

Why should we not just pray for healing and be nice to everyone? Wounds do not heal until the knife has been pulled out.

But regime change is not enough. John Nienstedt is not the root of the evils in our church. He is the product of a culture of clericalism that holds priests and bishops to be special, to be immune from temptation and hence free from committing evil. It's a culture that holds that the church is inerrant and incorruptible.

We know now beyond any doubt that priests and bishops are as human as the rest of us. They are capable of outstanding good and of despicable evil. They are subject to the same weaknesses such as fear, cowardice, and fear of exposure.

We further know that ordination does not confer a supernatural ability to manage, govern, or serve. These must be learned and one who is lacking must “borrow” the talents, wisdom, and experience from those who do have them: lay people, women, and critics.

No diocese, no parish can flourish unless it truly incorporates the faithful in its governance and decision making.

So where are we now? We are beyond bishop bashing, although they surely deserve it. We are beyond hand-wringing, beyond saying that “there is nothing we can do”, or “I am so afraid.” We are not going to dump it all on Pope Frances to accomplish all the changes necessary. We are well into asserting our rights and duties as adult Christians. We did it when we defeated the 'Marriage Amendment' and passed the Equal Marriage bill. We did it when we opened the statute of limitations on abuse claims. And we will do it again when we pass the Anti-Bullying bill and when we force the Archdiocese to open its books and budgeting. We'll know we've done it again when the Archdiocese reestablishes the Pastoral Council, a body that is truly representative, truly free from clerical interference, and truly respected and listened to.

And in so many ways that say 'We don’t re-victimize our abused children' and 'We treat everyone with compassion and respect,' we hold our clerical leaders, the bishops and the pastors, to the highest standards and expectations. We say 'the Church' and we mean not just the hierarchy but all of us. We are the Church.

Here's what each of us must do today:

1. Contact the Papal Nuncio [Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC, 20008] to cast your vote of no confidence, and to tell him what kind of person should be our Archbishop and what your expectations are.

2. Divert your contributions, not just withhold them, and tell your pastor and the bishop why you are not giving and where your money is now going. It could be to organizations like CCCR, SNAP or Call to Action-MN.

3. Talk to your legislators and let them know that the bishops’ opposition to the Anti-Bullying bill does not reflect what the faithful believe is Christ-like behavior.

4. Talk to your friends and relatives about what you hear and read and what they can do to make our church the People of God described by the Second Vatican Council.


Following are images by Progressive Catholic Voice editor Michael Bayly of November 9's event at the chancery calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.

The November 9 gathering at the chancery opened with the following prayer written by Susan Creel and Michael Bayly.

Lord of Love, we gather today united in the love and sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. We come together in our need for healing, justice, and authentic leadership in our local church. We gather to pray in a spirit of common purpose and humanity.

• For the victims and survivors of abuse in our Archdiocese, those who are known and those known only to you, may they know the compassion and tender mercy of all members of the church and may they experience empowerment and healing in their lives. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For the children in our Archdiocese, that we may work and pray on their behalf to build a church where all are treasured for who they are and protected from all forms of discrimination, bullying, and abuse. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

• For those in positions of leadership within our local church, that they may learn to always place the needs and concerns of people before institutional prestige and reputation. We pray . . . Lord, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the courage, fortitude and vision to walk together, bonded by our common Baptism and by our Humanity. Laity, ordained, and vowed together in the common goals of justice and healing. We pray for the strength to cry out with one voice united so that justice will be done. We pray in the name of the Love that creates, the Love that liberates, and the Love that makes whole. Amen.

Eric Fought, a master of divinity candidate at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, and a former seminarian and member of a Roman Catholic religious order, was another speaker at the November 9 event at the chancery. In the picture above he is shown being interviewed by Rachel Slavik of WCCO 4 News.

“It’s up to us as the laity to step forward and say ‘enough is enough,’” Fought told Slavik. “It’s time for some profound action, and the action that the archbishop needs to take is to step aside.”

During his speech, Eric Fought noted that:

While I am a member of a parish of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I in no way serve as an adviser to John Nienstedt, its archbishop. However, if I did, I would advise him to take swift action for the benefit of the organization that he has been called to lead.

That swift action would include his resignation, and his own willingness to cooperate fully with both civil and ecclesial authorities.

If we are to be fully honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if John Nienstedt served in a leadership capacity with any organization other than the Roman Catholic Church, such action would have been taken by now. However, the archbishop does serve the church, an organization with a long, painful and unfortunate history of covering up and enabling the criminal behavior of a segment of its clergy — a history that must come to an end.

And, let’s be clear: These matters are not “old news” that are simply being brought to the public for reconsideration by the media or others. In recent weeks, new allegations of abuse and the cover-up of abuse have been brought forward by independent journalists and authorities — cover-up directly orchestrated with Neinstedt’s knowledge and often through his own actions.

In recent years, Archbishop Nienstedt has been focused almost solely on an unsuccessful personal crusade to prevent Minnesotans in loving and committed same-sex relationships from having the freedom to marry. He has divided not only the church but also our entire state. He has squandered resources entrusted to his care — resources offered for the betterment of Minnesotans, not hate-filled politics. He turned the chancery into a campaign war room, the pulpit into a beacon of division and distrust.

If Nienstedt had spent a fraction of the time and energy he has spent in his tireless campaign against the freedom to marry in Minnesota on addressing the crisis at his feet involving the health and safety of Minnesota’s children, he might find himself at a different place in history. Unfortunately, that is not the case. His place in history will forever be marked with disgrace and shame.

To read Eric's November 6 MinnPost article, "The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside," click here.

Left: Virginia Meuers was also a speaker at the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.

Meuers, whose husband was abused by a priest, told those gathered that: "We have to have closure to this and I think it means that Archbishop Nienstedt has to leave and we have to have some new fresh air in order to bring any kind of healing."

Above: Bob Beutel, co-chair of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), the primary organizing group of the November 9 event calling for the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt.

Above: Bob Schwiderski (right) and Shawn Plocher of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Plocher, who was sexually abused by a priest in 1986, said: “Who can you trust when you were abused by a person of God in the House of God? Something needs to change.”

Abused at the age of 13, Plocher says he’s spent his life fighting for justice that never came. “It’s been a cover up . . . and this has been going on for a very long time,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of the chancery, Bob Schwiderski, the director of the Minnesota chapter of SNAP, said:

The safety of children, civil justice, and healing for survivors of sexual abuse is paramount to the members and supporters of SNAP. Our child safety and victim justice message is proven day after day, month after month and year after year. Yet, the Catholic dioceses are in need of deceit-ending credibility and bold good faith actions.

We spent $zero over 15 years – publicly sharing painful truths to help establish the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Over Nienstedt's twelve years in Minnesota, he has supported and spent over $1,255,415 in opposition to what many are calling the nation's leading child protection civil law.

As we witnessed this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined "Religion is No Defense for Criminal Sexual Conduct." Archbishop Nienstedt's actions and inactions are a perfect storm of recklessness, callousness, deceit, and child endangerment.

• It's reckless to let proven serial child predator and sexually exploitive priests live unreported and unsupervised among unsuspecting children and families.

• It's callous to give proven serial predator priests bonus pay.

• And it's deceitful to do all this secretly, without telling victims, parishioners, parents, the public.

Resignation? Yes! And SNAP also calls for grand jury investigations, subpoenas, and search warrants looking at possible child endangerment activities of the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis.

You can clean a chalice every day. But if 'false spiritual healers' are those wiping them dry, survivors and their loving families, Catholics, and Minnesotans will keep getting hurt or betrayed.

Above: Kathleen Olsen leads a rousing rendition of of the hymn "We Who Believe in Justice Cannot Rest" at the closing of CCCR's November 9 event at the chancery.

Related Off-site Links:
Catholic Group Asks Archbishop Nienstedt to Step Down – Renee Tessman (KARE 11 News, November 9, 2013).
Catholics in St. Paul Ask Archbishop Nienstedt to Resign – Will Ashenmacher (Pioneer Press, November 9, 2013).
Some Rich Minnesota Donors Turn from Archbishop Nienstedt – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, November 7, 2013).
Archdiocese Led Lobby to Stop Abuse Law Change – Tony Kennedy (Star Tribune, November 5, 2013).

See also the previous PCV posts:
Catholics to Gather on Saturday to Urge Archbishop John C. Nienstedt to Step Down
The Best Path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to Step Aside
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed from the Wound
A Call for the Resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt
Priest Demands Nienstedt Explain Handling of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Archbishop Nienstedt Does "Boilerplate PR"
To Regain Trust, Twin Cities Archdiocese Will Have to Come Clean
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Can the Archdiocese Continue Under the Leadership of John C. Nienstedt?

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


  1. Here in Philadelphia, the Catholic faithful know a great deal about what your archdiocese faithful is going through. I feel it is necessary for all to keep in mind the following information which indicates the archdiocesan leadership perspective when it comes to allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

    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.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (Retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

  2. Thank you Bob Beutel, your message is right on. Those who fit the culture of clericalism need to be kicked off their high pedestals, which is not a healthy place for any human being to be.

    Also, the church officials need to be investigated by law enforcement and there needs to be a thorough grand jury investigation into how this Archdiocese handles child sex abuse. Those responsible for enabling and empowering children to be sexually abused need to be prosecuted. Not one bishop is behind bars for enabling and empowering child predators to abuse more children.

    And we can not count on Pope Francis to take any decisive actions to protect kids from being sexually abused. He has not removed or demoted one bishop for covering up these sex crimes. Not even KC Bishop Finn, who is a convicted criminal and who still has his power and is still running the KC-St Joe diocese today.

    The St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese is not unique in how they handle child sex abuse crimes. There are others.
    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)

  3. Cardinal Timothy Dolan endorsed Pope Francis' "Poor church for the poor," but said that the U.S. bishops don't have to do anything new.

    When asked by David Gibson of RNS what concrete action the bishops might take in response to the pope's new emphasis, Cardinal Dolan said, "I don't think we have to add anything."

    "Can I think of anything new?" he asked. "I don't think so.