It looks like the anti-same-sex marriage crusader Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been accused of multiple incidents of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men. Most interestingly, the investigation is coming at the Archbishop's own request.
This isn't the first time the Archbishop has had trouble, just about half a year ago, there was a December 2013 accusation that he molested a boy during a confirmation photo shoot in 2009. The case never really went anywhere, but it's reportedly been reopened now. These current allegations are related to another allegation around the end of the year, when it became known a former Twin Cities priest had accused Nienstedt of making unwanted sexual advances.
After the allegations came to light, the Archbishop's own top canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger resigned in protest. The Archbishop agreed to hire an outside law firm to investigate the accusation selected the top-ranked Minneapolis firm of Greene Espel. Lawyers have interviewed current and former associates and employees of the Archbishop, including Haselberger.
Based on my interview with Greene Espel—as well as conversations with other interviewees—I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis... he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.
Of course, the Archbishop is dismissing these allegations, calling them a "personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage." Apparently, Nienstedt also feels that the accusers are coming forward because of decisions he has made in his leadership position, but because of privacy rules has refused to go into detail.
I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone. The allegations are a decade old or more, prior to my service as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, none of the allegations involve minors or illegal or criminal behavior.
The allegations are noteworthy specifically because of Nienstedt's long history of overt anti-gay sentiment. He donated $650,000 of Church funds to support the ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota, and said of the marriage equality policy that same-sex marriage comes from "Satan" and that "those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts…formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin." He wrote that fairly unambiguous condemnation in 2007. He also wrote a piece telling Catholics not to watch Brokeback Mountain, and accused Hollywood of turning its back on God.
Pope Francis would do well to support the investigation fully and defrock and excommunicate Nienstedt if the allegations can be proven.
Image via AP Images.