Catholic Church Not Following Own Rules in Dealing with Accused ex-Bishop

Despite much fanfare and applause surrounding Pope Francis’ recent “reforms” to handle cases of abuse or cover-up by bishops, a court-appointed official in Minnesota reports that the Church is not following its own rules in dealing with an accused former Archbishop. We are not surprised by this announcement and believe this is yet another example of why outside, secular investigations are needed in order to police Catholic officials.

Former Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned in disgrace from his position at the Archdiocese of Minneapolis – St. Paul for failing to protect children from abusive priests. The Archbishop was also himself accused of being one of those abusive clerics. He today lives in metropolitan Detroit, far from the archdiocese where he was said to have hidden reports about his own sexual misconduct.

Following the scandals in Minneapolis – St. Paul, former county attorney Thomas Johnson was appointed by the Ramsey County District Attorney to monitor how the Archdiocese is complying with its own protocols. Now, Mr. Johnson is sounding the alarm regarding the Nienstedt case, which he reported to the Vatican under Pope Francis’ new laws regarding abuse by hierarchs. Despite the fact that Vos Estis requires a determination about whether a case will be investigated be made within 30 days, more than six months later, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is still waiting for a response.

This is yet another powerful example that the Catholic Church cannot possibly police itself. In this case, the commission heralded by Pope Francis is the one stonewalling and failing the public. Certainly there can be kinks in any new system. But there is absolutely no excuse for not providing an explanation for any delays in the interim.

When the Vatican is at the center of a failure that involves public safety and justice, the United State Justice department is the appropriate and most worthy counterbalance. We hope the FBI and the Justice department use their powers to investigate the Neinstadt affair - all elements of it -- so that the empty promises of the Vatican become something more. We also hope that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is paying close attention to this case and will use the powers of his office to force transparency and true accountability onto the Archdiocese of Minneapolis – St. Paul.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, zhiner@snapnetwork.org)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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