Religion

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt Balks After Agreeing to Release Names of Clergy Sex Offenders

| by Allison Geller

After stating that he would be releasing of list of names of priests who had sexually abused children in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., Archbishop John Nienstedt has qualified his promise at the urging of the church.

Nienstedt was pressured to act after 100 people gathered in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul last Saturday, demanding Nienstedt’s resignation, MPR News reported. The crowd was made up partly of clergy sex abuse victims themselves.

Nienstedt responded to the protest in a written statement:

“It is my most sincere hope that the commitments and actions that my leadership team and I are taking, and will continue to take, will restore trust with our communities,” Nienstedt wrote.

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“We take these matters very seriously and will continue to share more information in the coming weeks regarding our actions to create and maintain safe environments. Nothing is more important.”

According to the Star Tribune, allegations that clergy leaders chronically ignored reports of sexual misconduct has already led some of the Twin Cities Catholic clergy to resign: Nienstedt’s vicar general, the Rev. Peter Laird, and Archbishop Harry Flynn and Rev. Kevin McDonough, who served on the board at the University of St. Thomas.

In the face of a growing scandal over sexual abuse in the church, Nienstedt said Friday that he would release a list of names of local offenders— a change from church policy that no doubt alarmed members of the clergy.

Less than 36 hours later, Nienstedt revised his statement. He wrote in a private letter to clergy that he first needed the “permission of the relevant court.”

Nienstedt was referring to a list of 33 names from a 2009 sexual misconduct case against clergy members, which the judge placed under a protective order that only the victims’ attorneys could see.

Nienstedt has now agreed to release a partial version of the list without names from the list of 33, unless the judge decides to unseal it. Attorneys for the archdiocese have so far succeeded in preventing the court from unsealing the list.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney in St. Paul who is representing several victims in a suit against the archdiocese, has been asking the judge to unseal that list for years. He says that some of the offenders on the list are no longer living in the Twin Cities area, or have died. He also told MPR news that the archdiocese doesn’t need permission form the court to release its own list of names.

Most of the victims and victims’ supporters are not satisfied with this partial revelation.

“If you truly want to come clean, if you truly want to be upstanding,” said Al Michaud of Eden Prairie, who suffered abuse from a local priest a as a child. “If you truly want to be a Christian, open your files and let the truth out.”

Sources: Star Tribune, MPR news