Archbishop Is Gone; Trust Needs to Be Rebuilt

St. Cloud Times
June 20, 2015

Members of the media wait across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul for the announcement of the resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche during a news conference at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis Chancery on Monday in St. Paul. In the last two years, Nienstedt was besieged by a clergy sex-abuse scandal that included numerous lawsuits from victims and led to bankruptcy. Then earlier this month, the archdiocese was criminally charged with failing to protect children.

The message from Rome and from civil authorities in St. Paul is quite clear: Bishops and other church leaders will be held accountable for their actions in dealing with clergy who abuse children.

The departure of Archbishop John Nienstedt from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is overdue. His resignation, whether it was his decision or at the direction of the Vatican, had to happen. In fact, it should have been done months ago.

The archdiocese must immediately begin the painful process of establishing trust. Otherwise, there is little reason for the 800,000 Catholics in the archdiocese to believe anything that comes from the leadership.

Of course, the embattled archdiocese faces criminal charges and a civil petition because of what is alleged to be a failure to protect children from a former priest who church officials should have known posed a risk.

While dealing with the court action must be a priority, convincing people church leaders can be trusted is even more important.

We are encouraged that Nienstedt's resignation was announced by the Vatican.

Nienstedt's resignation came days after the Vatican announced the creation of a new tribunal to address the bishops' role in child sex abuse.

For many victims of clergy abuse and their supporters, the move like so many church actions was long overdue.

A pattern of bishops acting in secrecy and outside the legal system in dealing with priests who abused children only led to more victims. And many of the abusive priests avoided where they should have ended up: on trial. And for many, they should have gone to prison, not to another parish in another community.

Pope Francis has appointed an interim administrator, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of Newark, New Jersey, to lead the archdiocese until a new leader is named. Hebda met with Minnesota priests Wednesday in Rochester. He needs to find a way to communicate with the rank-and-file Catholics about his plan and goals.

Hebda shouldn't be a caretaker administrator. He needs to be open, transparent and candid. He needs to start the healing process. And he needs to follow Pope Francis' lead and hold people accountable.

And may the word go out to all parts of the nation: Bishops will be held accountable.








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