Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dear Nienstedt: No, YOU DID NOT LEAVE because "you were a distraction"

an outcome
devoutly to be wished

Let's not pretend that the Archbishop resigned willingly.  He was forced out, he had no choice -- and he left because he did an excruciatingly bad job.

From the STrib timeline of Nienstedt's failures to do right by anyone other than himself:
September 2010: Archdiocese launches battle against same-sex marriage, issuing 400,000 DVDs to state Catholics and campaigning for constitutional amendment that fails in 2012.
Instead of involving himself in the privacy of people's bedrooms, I have to wonder if the archbishop ever heard the parable about the man who had a post jammed in his eye but instead bothered with the tiny speck in someone else's eyeball.
Nienstedt devoted far more energy, attention and resources to THIS insertion into politics, instead of paying attention to an acknowledged crisis -- a failure of priorities and values, and an exercise of poor pastoral stewardship.  It reflects a greater desire to coerce non-Catholics and other people of different conscience to submit and conform to Roman Catholic dogma and an indifference to protecting children and others from predatory clergy, in my opinion- DG)
 May 2013: A new state law extends the statute of limitations on sex-abuse lawsuits, opening the door to potentially dozens of additional lawsuits, witnesses and depositions.  
This was opposed by Nienstedt and the church, arguing that they did NOT want accountability for crimes. - DG
September 2013: Former archdiocese canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger goes public with allegations that church officials ignored concerns about the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer for years before he was convicted of abusing two boys.  
Imho, Nienstedt engaged in WILLFUL ignorance; it was his JOB to know what was going on, and to correct and prevent abuse, and the decision to ignore it was a choice, not an accident, and a dereliction of his duty and of basic human decency. - DG
December 2013: Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North orders the archdiocese to release a list of 30 priests considered “credibly accused” of child sex abuse.
Nienstedt and the archdiocese lawyers fought this as well and cooperated only to the degree they were coerced into doing so imho, which argues a lack of cooperation with civil authorities, and also a lack of concern for justice for the victims. - DG

December 2013: At Sunday mass, Nienstedt apologizes and says the archdiocese overlooked allegations of clergy sex abuse.    

This apology comes after we have been given extensive assurance that the archdiocese will NOT overlook allegation of clergy abuse -- and not for the first time, but as part of a recurring pattern.  Given that recurring pattern of assurance and continuing abuse, as demonstrated by the UN Panel above, I don't see any reason to consider Nienstedt's words, here in this apology, or any other apology, or in any assurances, to be sincere.  My opinion - DG
February 2014: A Ramsey County judge orders Nienstedt to give a sworn deposition to lawyers in lawsuits against the church, addressing whether the archdiocese followed its own policies in investigating sex abuse allegations. 
 What I recall from the depositions was a lot of "don't knows", "don't remembers, and other weasel words that frankly struck me as insincere and dishonest/untruthful, and every effort being made to obstruct the investigations against the church.  It was Nienstedts JOB to know, and if he did not know, to find out.  He failed in the job and in the trust he demanded from others in his commitment to doing his duty. My opinion, when he refused to quit, he should have been fired. - DG
March 2014: St. Paul police reopen investigation into the archdiocese’s handling of allegations against Wehmeyer.   
April 2014: Nienstedt gives a sworn statement that he knew little about the allegations against Wehmeyer and was not aware that known child sex abusers worked at the archdiocese during his tenure.  
And yet we have been assured this kind of error won't continue to occur, that these cases have been studied and reviewed  and examined? When does this become too much failure, and when is Nienstedt to be called out on apparent dishonesty, and at best disinterest?  This underlines that Nienstedt's resignation not about "distraction", this is about far worse job failures on the part of Nienstedt and his subordinates - my opinion, DG

April 2014: Internal archdiocese task force issues a report saying that poor oversight led the church to do an inadequate investigation of clergy sex abuse allegations.   

But this was exactly what Nienstedt and friends assured us, the public, was 'fixed' 'corrected', 'changed' and that they 'got it'.  This simply proves that no one can or should put any faith in statements from the Roman Catholic church generally, or Nienstedt and his subordinates specifically under any circumstances.  Why did this man continue in his position? WHY? That he did argues institutionalized cover for these crimes. - my opinion - DG
July 2014: Nienstedt announces that he will not resign, saying the church has turned the corner on the abuse allegations and he is working to regain support.   
Where have we heard THAT line of rubbish before? How can it be promoted with a straight face? Nienstedt should have been thrown out, and defrocked in the process, before now, if the church was serious and sincere -. my opinion - DG
October 2014: Archdiocese reaches landmark settlement with victims of clergy sex abuse and announces major changes in the way it will address future allegations.   

Blah blah blah, same old same old, but nothing changes -- and the same people continue in positions of power, influence and authority.  REAL changes would have included Nienstedt LEAVING involuntarily, imho, and if Nienstedt really cared about anything but himself, he would have left voluntarily. - DG

January 2015: Archdiocese files for bankruptcy protection, citing in part legal costs from clergy sex abuse litigation.   
Even if you only care about the church hanging on to its property and money, this should have been grounds for Nienstedt and his sidekick to be kicked to the curb then, not six months later. - my opinion, DG

June 5: Ramsey County Attorney John Choi files criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for “failing to protect children” stemming from the Wehmeyer case. It’s the first time a U.S. archdiocese has been criminally charged with such offenses. 
 Like the big banks with money laundering and crooked deals, including in both respective quantity of wealth and attitude, it will take jail time for the people who are responsible to bring about any real change.  I can only hope that those who failed to protect children spend time behind bars for it, but I will in fact be surprised if that happens, or if Nienstedt is tried by the Vatican and punished criminally either. But I live in guarded hope so long as Francis remains pope.  It would not seem unfair or unjust to me in the least if the Vatican made an example of Nienstedt.- my opinion, DG)I have long felt the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was an arrogant jerk who put himself and his ambitions ahead of the welfare of children and the Minnesota church. 

It is not as if Nienstedt is the only RC clergy at fault, or as if other faiths don't have some similar problems, but I think it is fair to posit Nienstedt is one of the worst among many bad clergy.  This UN Panel  from a little over a year ago seems to have pretty fairly summed up the problems that have never been addressed despite apologies and assurances and law suits, and the size, wealth, and both historic scope and geographic scope make their problem one of the worst.


  1. DG, three fairly brief comments.

    What happened during Nienstedt's leadership which relates to the Wehmeyer case (or any others)? Meaning, were there abuses DURING his leadership or failures during his leadership to investigate? I am not saying there weren't, I'm saying you didn't actually tie him to those failures except for the failure to, seemingly, be forthright and moral about allowing the progress of investigations, which is an entirely fair allegation. His diocese was obstructionist, at best. The RC, and many members I've spoken to, feel this disgrace is more about money (frivolous suits by the victims) than substance. It's disgusting.

    Second, this is a well laid out article and well argued. Congratulations for showing the repeated pattern of the church to say it will act, and then it's actual conduct where it instead obstructed. Other than one comment about institutionalized cover (which you don't have the proof to show it is fact, only suggestion), I think you did very well making it clear this is what occurred and your reaction.

    Last, and more on point, as a former Roman Catholic, as a Christian, I am appalled, embarrassed, saddened, and disgusted not only with the conduct of the clergy who committed these abuses (obviously), but even more so with an organization which has the gall to try to say it has the moral authority to "instruct" me in my life while it CLEARLY did far less than what a reasonable person would feel was their moral obligation to investigate AND STOP what looks like and allegedly was a CHURCH WIDE pattern of abuse and cover-up. Even in our own local diocese, we have a church which offers settlement and then six month's later, files for bankruptcy to protect itself from the consequences IT said it would face and pay. That is NOT the conduct of a moral leader, it is not the conduct of an institution claiming to have moral authority. It is, in my humble opinion, the conduct of a corrupt, money-driven, dogmatic and antiquated institution founded on an idea whose time has past. Seeking forgiveness without atonement, as the RC is doing here, is false confession. It offers words, not actions, in leadership. The church of Opus Die and which gives us the ideas that "life begins at conception" and preaches accountability for all, is, in the end showing itself utterly incapable of acting responsible.

    Last again, we should all be wary. Any church leader who choses to step into political debate on what are at best tangential issues to itself (like preventing gay marriage), as the RC so often does, is not acting like a moral leader, but rather, much like the carnival crier, is seeking to wield his/her voice to draw attention to their personal desires only, and like the carney clown should be trusted just about as far.

    1. Pen,
      Nienstedt had a bad track record while bishop of New Ulm, before he rose to this position of archbishop in St. Paul. His primary credentials for the promotion appear to be not holiness but ass-holiness and conservative orthodoxy; the STrib for example noted he disciplined a priest under his authority in New Ulm for praying with a Lutheran minister in response to extensive tornado damage. Nienstedt has NEVER cared about protecting anyone from predatory priests, if you look at the resources and energy and attention he allocated to the problem as shown by his track record, well covered by the press (imho). Gay bashing was just one of the conservative agendas that got him promoted under Pope Benedict -- who similarly did fuck-all to protect children, and was one of the worst offenders while in charge of disciplining predatory priests at the Vatican before he became pope.
      It is unlikely that even NOW, when the diocese under Nienstedt is facing criminal charges for cover up and obstruction (effectively) in protecting children from predatory priests, he would have been ousted if Pope Benedict were still pope. Rather Nienstedt was looking forward to further advancement (per the STrib and other sources, NOT just mho).
      What got Nienstedt in trouble this time with law enforcement and the courts was in part the efforts of a dioscese attorney who turned whistle blower, not only on this case but on the failures of the diocese more broadly, under Nienstedt.
      The criminal charges appear (per the opinions reported of other RC clergy) to have gotten the attention of the pope, and that appears to be what led to Nienstedt leaving -- hopefully exchanging his archbishop robes for striped pajamas behind bars, along with his sidekick .
      There is a lot the church could do, at all levels (see the preceing piece on this below). Shame on them for not doing so; this has NOTHING to do with false or trivial claims against the church and everything to do with the church acting as if no one matters but them keeping their power and assets, and believing themselves to be above the law.
      I hope you straighten out those RC you know who believe this is about frivolous law suits.
      That it is rather systemic and institutionalized abuse has been well established by the UN and other investigatory entities.