The Legacy of St. John Paul II: This Is Leadership?!


William D. Lindsey

As I continue reading about the preparations for tomorrow’s canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, I keep thinking — I’ll be honest — This is leadership? I’m not referring specifically to the two popes as I ask that question.

I’m referring quite specifically to the legacy of the John Paul II era in my church: This is leadership? How can I possibly read the following stories and not ask that question — how can I read these stories and fail to ask what the saint-to-be did to my church as he set into place top pastoral leaders who are offering the church the kind of leadership that is critically dissected (and with very good reason) in the following articles?

1. At Wild Reed, Michael Bayly calls on St. Paul-Minneapolis archbishop John Nienstedt to resign, after Nienstedt’s recent deposition was published and showed him to be either “astoundingly inept” (Michael’s words) in handling abuse cases in his archdiocese, or mystifyingly oblivious. Over and over, Nienstedt testified that he just didn’t know, couldn’t remember, was fuzzy about the details of this or that.

But as Michael points out, all the while that Nienstedt claims he was just not informed about or aware of salient facts wildly important to those concerned about young people who were being or who might be sexually molested by priests under his episcopal charge, there was this going on — he was leading his flock in the following quite specific way:

From the very start of his tenure as archbishop (in fact, even well before he was appointed coadjutor archbishop) John Nienstedt has been obsessed with demonizing consensual sexual relationships between same-sex couples and working to ensure that such relationships are in no way legally acknowledged or recognized. In terms of the latter, he has failed completely. The anti-gay “marriage amendment,” which he tirelessly championed, was defeated and, shortly after, both the Minnesota House and Senate passed marriage equality legislation. Same-sex couples now have the same civil right to marry as opposite-sex couples. During the often contentious marriage amendment “battle,” many Minnesota Catholics opposed Nienstedt’s anti-gay activism. In 2013 they celebrated the victory of marriage equality in the civil sphere.

Here’s the crux of the matter: The time and energy that Nienstedt expended on demonizing gay relationships and attempting to deny such relationships legal recognition in civil law, could and should have been focused instead on creating a local church reflective of gospel values, including confronting and dealing with the many issues relating to clergy sex abuse within the archdiocese; issues, which Nienstedt openly admits in his deposition, he was “out of the loop” about (emphasis in original).

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.