Investigation found several ‘imprudent’ actions by former Twin Cities archbishop, nothing illegal, church says
An investigation into the former head of the Twin Cities Catholic archdiocese found several instances of “imprudent” actions but nothing illegal, the district’s current leader said Friday.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s statement regarding John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, says allegations of impropriety were “thoroughly investigated” by people outside the archdiocese. Hebda added that he was just recently informed of the investigation’s conclusion and findings but didn’t expand on the “imprudent” actions that were brought to light.
Hebda arrived in the Twin Cities in 2015 following Nienstedt’s resignation in June of that year. His resignation came on the heels of a lawsuit against the archdiocese alleging hundreds of instances of clergy abuse and a failure by the archdiocese to properly handle those cases and protect parishioners. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2015 and reached a $210 million settlement with more than 400 abuse survivors in 2018 — the largest ever for a Catholic diocese involving a bankruptcy at the time.
Nienstedt was also named in a civil lawsuit regarding clergy abuse in 2014. He’s denied those allegations – which stemmed from his days in Detroit and New Ulm and not while he was archbishop- from the beginning and said publicly that he’d welcome an investigation to resolve them.
While the recently completed investigation determined the allegations against Nienstedt were “unfounded” and didn’t warrant any further investigation or sanctions, Hebda says Pope Francis still decided to prevent Nienstedt from taking part in any public ministries in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota or from living in those places. In addition, Pope Francis prevented Nienstedt from exercising ministry in any way outside of his diocese of residence without authorization.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis says Nienstedt currently lives in Michigan.
But Frank Meuers, the Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests(SNAP), said the actions against Nienstedt are just a slap on the wrist.
“If that’s a penalty, I don’t agree. I don’t think it’s a penalty at all,” he said.
“I think that to call it unfounded is a travesty. Just not true at all. We think we have plenty of indication
of it,” he added.
Click here to read Hebda’s full statement.
Friday afternoon, former archbishop John Nienstedt released this statement in response to the investigation:
Seven years ago, I submitted my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in order to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we faced at that time. My leadership had unfortunately drawn attention away from the good works of Christ’s Church and those who performed them. Thus, my decision to step aside.
Since then, I have fully cooperated with any investigation into allegations made against me and I have answered every question asked of me honestly and to the best of my recollection.
I was recently informed that the Vos estis (investigation) by Dicasteries for Bishops and for the Doctrine of the Faith has been completed and that the Holy See determined that the available evidence did not support a finding that I had committed any canonical delict (crime) and deemed the allegations against me unfounded. I have asked the Holy See, through my canonical advocate, to clarify the “imprudent” actions I allegedly committed while in Minnesota.
I will heed the direction given to me by the Holy Father, which I have been following for the past seven years. I am retired now so my ministry will continue to be limited. I am sorry for any pain experienced by anyone because of the allegations against me, and ask for your prayers for their healing. I also ask for continued prayers for the well-being of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and its leaders.”John Nienstedt