Did Archbishop John Nienstedt Lie under Oath?
August 14, 2014
Documents made public Monday by attorneys attempting to make the case that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is a public nuisance suggest Archbishop John Nienstedt gave false statements under oath about a priest who was accused of abusing minors.
The documents released by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson show that each year, Nienstedt was updated on Father Kenneth LaVan's continuing work and approved of it as recently as one year ago. Yet, in a sworn deposition on April 2, Nienstedt claimed he did not know until March of this year that the priest accused of sexually assaulting at least one 16-year-old girl in the 1980s was still active in ministry.
"I was not aware that he was publicly in ministry," Nienstedt said of LaVan, "and as soon as I realized it, I had his faculties removed."
While Nienstedt contends he learned of LaVan's continuing ministry during a review of clergy files ordered by the archdiocese, attorneys at Anderson's law office tell a different story -- one that alleges LaVan was removed to keep the case from surfacing amid increased media attention on the growing clergy sexual abuse scandal. Memos from 20 years ago show top church officials took steps to ensure the problem would not "blow up." In fact, some of the documents released Monday expose conversations between top church officials over allegations of harassment, sexual misconduct with married parishioners, "lavish" expenditures on lovers, and a diagnosis of "compulsive sexuality."
"The secret personnel file of Kenneth LaVan shows a pernicious 'blind spot' among Catholic officials at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: the stunning and heartless minimization of the sexual abuse of girls and women," attorneys wrote.
LaVan file details several 'sexual exploitation' claims
Before Nienstedt became archbishop in 2007, LaVan had already been the center of two settlements involving the church and his victims; however, he was still serving at St. Olaf in Minneapolis periodically until December 2013 despite the zero-tolerance stance the archdiocese has claimed to adhere to since 2002. That means LaVan spent 25 years with the church after he was first accused of sexually assaulting a teen, with more than 10 taking place after the church committed itself to rooting out priests with even one single sexual act involving a minor.
Church officials confirmed Monday that LaVan was also accused if inappropriate sexual relationships with adult women. One of the cases detailed in a church memo explains that a married, 17-year parishioner relocated to a different church after LaVan made sexual advances, exposed himself, and spent hundreds of dollars on phone calls. That same memo also includes allegations of harassment, including possible threats of burning the woman's house down and murdering her husband.