Archbishop Nienstedt Under Investigation for Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

Updated: 07/01/2014 10:15 PM
Created: 07/01/2014 3:32 PM
By: Steve Tellier

Archbishop John Nienstedt, the head of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, is being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct, including claims that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a former Twin Cities priest, according to a report posted online Tuesday by Commonweal Magazine.

Jennifer Haselberger, the archbishop's former top canon lawyer, told Commonweal the archbishop is under investigation for "multiple allegations" of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men.

Nienstedt denies the allegations and says the archdiocese is conducting an internal investigation into them.

"These allegations are absolutely and entirely false. Nonetheless, I ordered Bishop Lee Piché to oversee an independent, thorough investigation and that he hire an outside firm unaffiliated with the Archdiocese to conduct the investigation," Nienstedt said in a statement Tuesday.

Nienstedt went on to say the allegations do not involve minors or lay members, an do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior. He says the allegations involve events alleged to have occurred at least a decade ago, before he began serving in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Haselberger said she believes investigators have received about 10 sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety by Nienstedt. The accusations date back to his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and coadjutor and archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Nienstedt is also accused of retaliating against people "who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct," Haselberger told Commonweal.

"These allegations take this situation to a whole different level," said Dr. Charles Reid, an expert on the Catholic church and a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

When asked about Nienstedt's future with the archdiocese, Reid replied, "I think we're seeing a cumulative critical mass beginning to take shape here. We may well see the need sooner or later for a breath of fresh air."

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