MI--Detroit bishop brings controversy to Michigan

For immediate release: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790[email protected])

A Detroit priest who rose to become an archbishop but resigned amid controversy is back in Michigan and generating more controversy. He’s accused of sexual impropriety with several Detroit area seminarians, retaliating against one who rebuffed his advances, concealing clergy sex crimes, and interfering with an investigation into his alleged sexual misdeeds.

For seven years, Archbishop John Nienstedt headed the Catholic church in St. Paul Minnesota. But he stepped down last year ten days after prosecutors filed criminal charges against Nienstedt’s archdiocese, becoming “the nation's first (to be) charged with failure to protect children,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

But three days ago, Nienstedt said his first masses at his new post at St. Philip’s parish in Battle Creek in the Kalamazoo diocese. He has deep roots in the Detroit area (see below).

This is a stunningly reckless and callous move. We call on Pope Francis to reverse it all of Michigan’s bishops to denounce it. Again, he is accused of committing sexual misconduct and concealing child sex crimes. Why take the risk that he’ll hurt young Michigan Catholics or betray adult Michigan Catholics?

This is an outrage. Kalamazoo church officials are putting young people in harm’s way. It’s just that simple.

Shame on Kalamazoo Bishop Paul Bradley, Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda and on every single Catholic priest, employee and parishioner who silently approves or accepts this dangerous decision without protest.

As Michigan’s “metropolitan” prelate, it’s especially important that Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron denounce this move.

This is a key reason clergy sex crimes, misdeeds and cover ups continue in the church: because those who commit these heinous acts are still usually protected – and sometimes promoted – regardless of how much harm they cause.

We urge Michigan Catholics and citizens to learn about Nienstedt’s deceitful handling of the abuse and cover up crisis, especially the case of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, at BishopAccountability.org

Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, like Nienstedt, resigned because of the abuse crisis. Pope John Paul later put Law back into a church. Pope Francis is allowing the same irresponsible move here. Arguably, this is worse. Law was never personally accused of sexually abusing or exploiting anyone.

Catholics who believe their church hierarchy has “reformed” and now handles abuse cases “better” should take note. This decision shows that Catholic officials still put the wishes and needs of their brother bishops ahead of nearly every other consideration, including the safety of the flock.

Again, Pope Francis should stop this reckless and hurtful move.

Nienstedt graduated in 1969 from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and worked at Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson, St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, St. Fabian's Parish in Farmington Hills and Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington.

He rose through the church hierarchy, becoming personal secretary to then-Cardinal John Francis Dearden, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Detroit and eventually became an auxiliary bishop of Detroit with jurisdiction over the Dearborn, Downriver, Monroe, Northwest Wayne, Southland, and Western Wayne vicariates.

We hope every single person who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by Nienstedt or cover ups by Catholic officials, in either Michigan or Minnesota, will find the strength to call police, expose wrongdoers and protect kids.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected][email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747[email protected])

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