MN--Top church staff hid archbishop’s recent deceit
For immediate release: Friday, June 19
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Most top Twin Cities Catholic officials did nothing and kept quiet as their boss interfered with and limited an allegedly “independent” investigation into the archbishop’s alleged sexual misconduct.
Bishop Bernard Hebda should release that investigation now and disclose its cost. And every single church staffer who helped hide Archbishop John Nienstedt’s wrongdoing by their inaction should publicly apologize for and explain their self-serving silence.
In a long, damning story, Minnesota Public Radio reports that, for months, several top church officials in the St. Paul/Minneapolis archdiocese knew Nienstedt was being deceitful about the “investigation” but took no steps to expose his deceit.
This story is less about Nienstedt. It’s more about others, most of whom are still high-ranking archdiocesan staffers, who ignored or helped hide Nienstedt’s very recent wrongdoing: his tampering with an investigation while deceiving the police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public about that investigation. Shame on each of them.
Shame too on Pope Francis’ US representative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Two bishops flew to Washington DC and took a risk by telling Vigano that Nienstedt’s advisors urged him to resign. But by the time the bishops return to Minnesota, “the lawyers investigating Nienstedt's personal life are told to limit their investigation to crimes and grave sins.” (At first, they “had been told to investigate allegations of past misconduct. “)
Whatever Vigano did or didn’t do, he clearly wasn’t helpful. Nienstedt was allowed to stay on the job and continue lying to his flock and the public for more than a year.
We commend each person who cooperated in the flawed and still-secret investigation into Nienstedt, especially those who submitted affidavits. We are particularly grateful to Fr. Eugene Tiffany, Joel Cycenas and James Heathcott for disclosing their names publicly or confirming that they gave affidavits to the investigators.
We urge Catholics, in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, to note this crucial sentence from the MPR report: “The archdiocese would cover the costs (of the investigation into Nienstedt) secretly, which meant that parishioners who put money in the collection basket each Sunday wouldn't know that some of their money was being used to investigate rumors about Nienstedt.”
We also urge Catholics everywhere to remember this troubling case every time Catholic officials anywhere claim they’re launching a supposedly “investigation” investigation into clergy sex crimes, misdeeds and cover ups.
Finally, we urge Catholics to note the difference between what church officials write and what church officials do. Often, their words on paper look good. But their behavior in private is bad.
One Catholic official told Greene Espel lawyers - on paper - that the archdiocese wanted: "to discover, as best they could, the truth or falsity of the claims regarding the Archbishop,” to “follow the truth,” and that the “investigation” was "not to be a whitewash or a witch-hunt.” But behind the scenes, Nienstedt (and perhaps other church officials) were working to interfere with and limit that so-called “investigation.”
The sad, simple truth is that in controversies involving clergy child sex crimes, clergy adult sexual misconduct, clergy financial misdeeds - and cover ups of all this wrongdoing – it’s unwise to believe what church officials claim in writing and smarter to examine what church officials do in private.
(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@example.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, firstname.lastname@example.org) Verne Wagner, Northern Minnesota SNAP director (218-340-1277, email@example.com), Frank Meuers, Twin Cities SNAP director (952-334-5180, firstname.lastname@example.org)