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,

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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,, Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, Verne Wagner, Northern Minnesota SNAP director (218-340-1277,, Frank Meuers, Twin Cities SNAP director (952-334-5180,



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  • Iain Pattison
    commented 2015-06-22 10:39:08 -0500
    If the RCS did do what Sally Mangold asks then the RCS would collapse. If that did happen then the world would be a better place.
  • Iain Pattison
    commented 2015-06-22 10:30:24 -0500
    I don’t think that the Roman Catholic System (RCS) is going to listen to people like Sally Mangold. The RCS is pretty shrewd so they pay attention to public opinion but I don’t think they will listen to Sally Mangold because she is a woman. The RCS is many bad things and being sexist is one of them.
    Another reason why I don’t think the RCS will listen to Sally Mangold is because of what she has said. Child abuse and it’s cover-up have been going on in the RCS for about two thousand years now. The RCS has never REALLY tried to stop the child abuse and cover-up. Why doesn’t Pope Francis (Bergoglio) hand over all the pedophile priest files to the United Nations. That will show that the RCS is serious about eradicating child abuse in their organisation.
  • Sally Mangold
    commented 2015-06-19 16:32:46 -0500
    And we wonder why there’s a shortage of priests! This predator was the Rector of a Seminary. Hard to believe the Archdiocese of Detroit Mi would put a man with a history of this behavior in that position. Who’s worse the heirarchy that keeps promoting and hiding these guys, or the predator?
    Those that were brave enough to come forward are to be commended. It had to have been painful to recall and intimidating to go public with this. God Bless all who have disclosed the dirty acts of this man hiding behind his robes and acting “in the Name of God”. Then being allowed by the church to retire and collect monetary benefits. He’s a common criminal that should be defrocked and legally punished like any other sexual predator. The young men whose dreams he destroyed are the ones that should be compensated.
    How sad for those affected and for their families.
    I am a very devout and involved cradle catholic – but I want this behavior stopped and the Catholic Church to step up and take responsibility instead of harboring, hiding and promoting these lecherous dirty men hiding in robes “in the name of God”.
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