Nienstedt asks Holy See to clarify ‘imprudent’ actions in Vos estis findings

The Pillar [Washington DC]

January 5, 2024

By Michelle La Rosa

Archbishop John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has asked the Holy See for clarity about the “imprudent” actions he was determined to have committed in a recently-concluded Vos estis investigation.

“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,” Nienstedt said in a Jan. 5 statement.

“I have asked the Holy See, through my canonical advocate, to clarify the ‘imprudent’ actions I allegedly committed while in Minnesota.”

Nienstedt said that he has “fully cooperated” with the canonical investigation and has “answered every question asked of me honestly and to the best of my recollection.”

His statement came a few hours after Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced an investigation under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi had determined that Nienstedt had engaged in several “imprudent” actions, but no canonical crimes.

“While none of these instances, either standing alone or taken together warrant any further canonical investigation or penal sanctions, it was determined by Pope Francis that the following administrative actions are justified,” Hebda wrote, listing three prohibitions placed on his predecessor:

Nienstedt may not exercise any public ministry in the province of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which covers the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, nor may he reside in the territory.

The archbishop is further prohibited from exercising public ministry “in any way” outside the diocese of his current residence, believed to be in Michigan, without the “express authorization” of his local bishop, and only after informing the Dicastery for Bishops in Rome.

In his statement, Nienstedt said he will abide by the restrictions placed upon him, which include a ban from residing in his former archdiocesan province or exercising public ministry outside of his current diocese of residence without prior approval. 

The archbishop noted that since he is retired, his ministry will be limited in the future.

“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,” he said.

Nienstedt is the first U.S. bishop to have prohibitions on his ministry publicly imposed following an investigation under the norms of Vos estis lux mundi.

The archbishop left office in 2015 following a series of allegations of failure to deal appropriately with instances of clerical sexual abuse by priests of the archdiocese.

He said at the time that he had resigned “in order to give the archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face.”

“I leave with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” he added.

After his resignation, allegations of misconduct were made against the archbishop personally. 

He was succeeded by Archbishop Bernard Hebda, then-coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, who arrived as apostolic administrator until being named Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2016.