MI--Probe deepens into bishop for alleged misdeeds in Detroit

For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 9

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com, davidgclohessy@gmail.com)

An investigation into a Minnesota Catholic archbishop who allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with seminarians in Detroit is deepening. Detroit’s current archbishop must help, by aggressively reaching out to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered sexual misdeeds by his colleague.  

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt faces allegations of sexual misconduct with ten seminarians. At least some of the reported misdeeds happened in Detroit, where Nienstedt for six years was President of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. In 1996, he was named an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.


A months-long investigation by church officials is now being taken over by a second law firm.

For the safety of parishioners and the public, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron must act. We beg him to use his vast resources – parish websites, church bulletins and pulpit announcements – to seek out anyone else who may have been hurt by Nienstedt. This is the very least Vigneron should do.

When allegations of sex crimes or misdeeds against clergy arise, Catholic officials almost always do the absolute bare minimum. Rarely, if ever, do they act responsibly and decisively, by helping the investigations. And by their silence and inaction, Catholic officials make such investigations harder and less successful.

Catholic officials can’t have their cake and eat it too, by insisting on internal investigations into sexual misconduct but doing little or nothing to help with these investigations.

For centuries, sexual misconduct has been carefully and effectively hidden by a rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy in the Catholic church. Despite promises of reform, such misconduct remains largely hidden. Vigneron can become part of the solution, by taking decisive action now. Or he can keep being part of the problem, by passively sitting back and refusing to extend a helping hand to Minnesota investigators and to perhaps even more suffering Detroit Catholics, some of whom might be his own priests.

(One of Nienstedt’s accusers, a former priest named Joel Cycenas, has spoken publicly in today’s Star Tribune.)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have 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, davidgclohessy@gmail.com, Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org, Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747, bblaine@SNAPnetwork.org    

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