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Archbishop Nienstedt stepping aside following allegation of inappropriate touching

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt is stepping aside from his public position as head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis while St. Paul Police investigate allegations that he inappropriately touched a boy in 2009.

According to a statement from the archdiocese  Tuesday morning, an unspecified church individual who is required to report all abuse allegations told St. Paul police that Nienstedt had been accused of inappropriately touching “a minor male on the buttocks.” The “single incident” took place in 2009 at a group photography session with the archbishop after a confirmation ceremony, according to the release.

Nienstedt “emphatically denies” the allegation but will immediately step aside while it is investigated.

“The archbishop and the archdiocese stand ready to cooperate fully with the St. Paul police,” the release read.

Nienstedt addressed the allegations in a Tuesday letter to parishioners in the archdiocese.

“I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me. I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false,” he wrote. “I have never once engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with whom I disagree.”

The news comes as the church is embroiled in controversy over its handling of clergy sex abuse cases and reports that leaders covered up some of the incidents. The archdiocese recently released a list of 32 priests with credible claims against them of sexual abuse of a minor. On Monday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona also released the names of 14 priests accused of abusing minors, as mandated by a Ramsey County judge.

Archdiocesan officials said the steps they’ve taken in response to the allegation “demonstrate and reaffirm” their “commitment to disclosure.” “These steps further confirm that all within the archdiocese will be subject to the internal policies we have established,” the release read.

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché will take over Nienstedt’s public duties during the investigation.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/17/2013 - 01:10 pm.

    Reaffirming their commitment to disclosure

    Too bad the Archdiocese and Mr. Nienstedt weren’t as interested in a commitment to disclosure in years and decades past…

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 12/17/2013 - 02:19 pm.

    Enough is enough

    The clerics are now subject to all kinds of claims, real and imagined. But they have only themselves to blame. It’s time for married priests.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/18/2013 - 05:14 pm.

      Of Course That’s It

      It’s common knowledge that married men never rape, never molest children, and never stray from their marital vows. In fact they rarely even lust at other women.

  3. Submitted by Ann Johnson on 12/17/2013 - 05:36 pm.

    Boy’s sounds real

    If the youth wanted to invent a story, it seems he would have thought of something more vivid. In his letter, the archbishop asks us for our prayers for himself, but not for our prayers for the boy. This reinforces my perception of an exalted church authority acting out of self-protection.

  4. Submitted by Ann Johnson on 12/17/2013 - 06:00 pm.

    True or false?

    It seems that if the youth were making up the story, he would have thought of something more shocking. The archbishop asks for our prayers for himself, but not for our prayers for the youth; a pattern, it seems- more concern for the cleric than the flock. Meanwhile the archbishop says he will pray for us and the youth. That seems totally weird to me.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/18/2013 - 05:10 pm.


      It’s entirely possible that this allegation is true, and I’ve not been an admirer of the bishop to say the least. Those who have never been at a Confirmation ceremony at the Cathedral may not be aware that this is probably the most publicly visible scenario for a bishop to commit something like this. After the Mass hundreds of people, many with cameras and cell phones in hand, are milling around. And many are waiting for an opportunity to get a picture with the presiding bishop, both individually as well as in groups. Of course repressed behavior will ultimately out itself even if involuntarily, a bishop could hardly pick a worse time to do something like this.

  5. Submitted by Judy Jones on 12/17/2013 - 07:42 pm.

    It takes courage

    It takes a lot of courage to come forward and take action about being sexually abused. So let’s hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Archbishop John Nienstedt, will get help and find the courage and strength to speak up and contact law enforcement, not the church officials, no matter how long ago it happened.
    Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511,
    SNAP “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

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