MN--Victims oppose possible Nienstedt successor

For immediate release: Tuesday, Jan. 6

Statement by Frank Meuers of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (952-334-5180,

A church insider-turned-whistleblower says that an Iowa bishop may temporarily replace St. Paul’s embattled Catholic archbishop. We hope she’s wrong. We hope Pope Francis will pick someone else.   

In a 12/30 blog post, Jennifer Haselberger writes that “Persistent rumors suggest that Nienstedt will either resign or be removed shortly after a bankruptcy filing, and it has been suggested that former auxiliary and now-Bishop of Des Moines, Richard Pates, will be appointed to serve as apostolic administrator until a successor can be found.” Again, we hope this does not happen.

-- In June of last year, Minnesota Public Radio reported on the “investigation into the Rev. Francisco ‘Fredy’ Montero, a priest from Ecuador who returned to his native country amid a criminal investigation into whether he sexually abused a four-year-old girl.” Pates could and should have done more to warn the public about him, help police investigate him and prevent his fleeing overseas during a criminal investigation.


--Also in June of last year, we criticized Pates for “being far too secretive and lax about the credibly accused child molesting cleric that he has suspended.”

We said: “For the safety of kids, Pates should disclose where Fr. Howard Fitzgerald, is now. He should disclose when Catholic officials first received allegations of child sexual abuse against Fr. Fitzgerald. He should put Fr. Fitzgerald into a remote, secure treatment center so he'll be kept away from kids. And he should personally visit every parish where Fr. Fitzgerald worked, begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police, so that Fr. Fitzgerald might be criminally charged, convicted and be kept away from kids even longer. In short, Pates is not saying or doing enough about Fr. Fitzgerald. Pates has pledged to be “open” about clergy sex abuse cases. He should honor that pledge right now.”

--Pates was also informed about – but didn’t call the police about – Fr. Clarence Vavra, who is still alive and has admitted molesting boys on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

--Pates also learned of suspicions of abuse involving Fr. Larry R. Johnson. Instead of calling police, he urged one parishioner to confront Fr. Johnson directly.

--During his seven years as head of the Des Moines diocese, we’ve seen nothing about Pates’ handling of clergy sex crimes or cover ups that give us any hope that he’s “reformed” in any real way.

Haselberger says “in many ways Pates would be a good choice. As a former auxiliary and pastor, he is familiar with the Archdiocese and its people, and could be successful in calming the fears and winning the support of important donors and influential Catholics. Still, she admits that “he is tainted by association” with current and recent archdiocesan officials, “through no fault of his own,” she contends.

We share Haselberger’s view that “The only way to effectively move beyond this is to bring in new blood at all levels of the archdiocesan administration.” But we emphasize that the very best way to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, expose the truth and deter future recklessness and deceit is to help police and prosecutors charge and convict those who are concealing and have concealed these heinous crimes against children.

Finally, regardless of whether he is or is not chosen for a Twin Cities post, Pates has a duty, we believe, to “come clean” with Catholics and citizens in both Iowa and Minnesota about his role in the troubling Vavra, Johnson and Montero cases. He also has an obligation, we feel, to be more forthcoming about Fitzgerald’s crimes and more aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes.

(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

Contact - David Clohessy, 314-566-9790,, Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003,, Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747,, Verne Wagner, 218- 340-1277,


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