Archbishop of St. Paul and Minnesota resigns after charges of sex abuse coverup

By Abby Ohlheiser And Michelle Boorstein
June 15, 2015

Archbishop John Nienstedt addresses a news conference on Jan. 16 in St. Paul, Minn. after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it was the best way for the church to get as many resources as possible to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Just days after his archdiocese was charged by prosecutors over its handling of sexual abuse claims against a priest, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis John C. Nienstedt resigned on Monday.

“In order to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face, I have submitted my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and I have just received word that he has accepted it,” Nienstedt said in a statement posted to the archdiocese’s website. “My leadership has unfortunately drawn attention away from the good works of His Church and those who perform them. Thus, my decision to step down.”

He added: “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.”

Bishop Lee A. Piché, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, also resigned on Monday. The Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese until Pope Francis appoints a new Archbishop.

Ten days ago, Minnesota prosecutors charged the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over its handling of clergy abuse claims, saying church leaders failed to protect children from unspeakable harm and “turned a blind eye” to repeated reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys, the Associated Press reported.

From the AP:

The archdiocese as a corporation is charged with six gross misdemeanor counts. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said there’s not yet enough evidence to charge any individuals.

The charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin.

The resignations come as the Vatican works to improve how it handles charges of clergy abuse. The Vatican announced last week that it had established a new tribunal for holding bishops accountable in cases of alleges sex abuse coverups.

In April, the Vatican accepted the resignation of Kansas City, Mo. Bishop Robert Finn, the only U.S. Bishop to be criminally convicted of covering up abuse.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.