Abp. Nienstedt: My pledge to restore trust

It was Dec. 13, 2007. I remember it well. I had just returned from a meeting of the college of consultors of the New Ulm Diocese, having presided over the selection of a new apostolic administrator to take my place as bishop. The phone rang and my brother said, “Dad is dead.”

I pulled the car over to absorb those words. Six weeks later I stood at my mother’s hospital bed and watched her die. It was an extremely painful time in my life, losing both parents within such a short period. My parents had been very close to me. They had a huge influence on who I am. I could not have asked for better parents.

I recall those moments now, because the pain and sorrow I felt then reflects that which I have heard from so many of you in your own suffering and disillusionment these past few weeks. I want you to know that I have been praying for all of you. I am experiencing that pain, too. The media have been filled with all kinds of accusations and unanswered questions. There is cause here for sadness, confusion and anger.

After almost a month, I have come to understand more clearly what has happened to bring us to this point. I am grateful to my leadership team, which has helped me process this understanding. Practically all of my senior leadership team is new, with an average tenure of less than a year. We have been searching for answers. And while there is more to do, we have arrived at a better picture of the truth.

The first thing that must be acknowledged is that over the last decade some serious mistakes have been made. We have indeed created many policies, procedures and practices designed to prevent and address clergy sexual misconduct. The new independent Task Force will review all of this and hopefully tell us what we can do better. I am committed to implementing those recommendations.
continue at The Catholic Spirit


  1. In order to recommit to something, one must first - by definition - have already committed in the first place. While we appreciate prayer and self-reflection, let's not be naive to the realities.

    It has already been reported (http://www.startribune.com/local/east/228853201.html) that Fr. Reginald Whitt, the appointed head of the supposedly independent commission entrusted to review the archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations, lives in a priest residence at the University of St. Thomas with a small group of clergy that until recently included the Rev. Michael Keating, a Catholic studies professor on leave from the university after new allegations that he sexually abused a 13-year-old girl in the late 1990s. From my perspective, this commission is a blatant attempt by the Archbishop to create a facade of independence, knowing full well that the participants will dutifully serve his perceived needs.

    The Archbishop is playing a Johnny Come Lately hero claiming sincere remorse and a strong interest in transparency and candor while simultaneously letting others take the fall for events that took place under his autocratic rule. His own canon lawyer has recounted her frustration with specific incidences where she brought specific concerns and failings to his attention but he refused to respond. Archbishop Nienstedt has lost the faith of many of the faithful. If things are going to change, things need to change.

  2. "Mistakes were made" was part of what Archdiocese of Milwaukee spokesman Jerry Topczewski said when asked for comment on the release of Archbishop Weakland's deposition transcript in November of 2008. So things in the Twin Cities must be almost as bad as here.

    There is, by the way, a Wikipedia entry on "Mistakes were made".

  3. This is both outrageous and pathetic. What kind of crisis does it take for a bishop to take things into his own hands and get directly involved in reviewing priests? He is simultaneously abdicating his personal responsibility and subjugating his authority to a committee. Typical administrator.

    This is another classic PR statement. First generate sympathy for the reader with a tale of woe, and then claim empathy, followed by bewilderment about what possibly could have gone wrong.
    Form yet another frigging committee to examine things so that the bishop can follow *its* recommendations instead of the bishop *leading* and doing what the bishop will take direct responsibility for. If the committee misses another priest, the bishop is safely off the hook.

    Nienstedt came from New Ulm in MN. There's no way he couldn't have known that St. Paul was having issues with priests. He should have been reviewing priest records and interviewing priests personally during his year long term as coadjutor. Absolutely no excuse for not getting a handle on who your priests are before you take over.

    Furthermore, I can't believe he is letting Flynn escape the cameras on this. Flynn created a great deal of the mess himself. If I had to tie Flynn to a chair and let the reporters in, I'd do it.

    Listecki took the same thing with the Fr. Pat issue in LAX. Fr. Pat gets questioned by the police about following boys into the bathroom and instead of Listecki meeting directly with Fr. Pat, he sends the diocesan lawyer Birnbaum, Gilles, and Hirsch to talk to him. Leaves Listecki with plausible deniability. What in the diocese could possibly be more important at the moment than a priest getting questioned by the police? Listecki should have reviewed Fr. Pat's computer immediately and personally. The police weren't fooled by Fr. Pat's story. How is it that 2 priests that should know something about the spiritual life get fooled by a silly story about prostrate problems?

    I agree "mistakes were made". They were made by JPII and BXVI when the bishops were selected.


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