Archbishop John Nienstedt, the virulent homophobe who heads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is under investigation for "multiple allegations" of sexual relationships with seminarians, priests, and other men.
The Catholic magazine Commonweal broke the news:
The investigation was spurred by information the archdiocese received late last year, according to another person with knowledge of the investigation... Near the end of the year, it came to light that a former Twin Cities priest had accused Nienstedt of making unwanted sexual advances.
The archbishop agreed to hire an outside law firm to investigate the accusation. By early 2014, the archdiocese had selected the top-ranked Minneapolis firm of Greene Espel. Nienstedt, along with auxiliary bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzens, flew to Washington, D.C., to inform the apostolic nuncio of the allegations. Over the course of the investigation, lawyers have interviewed current and former associates and employees of Nienstedt--including Haselberger, who resigned in protest in April 2013.
"Based on my interview with Greene Espel--as well as conversations with other interviewees--I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis," Haselberger told me. What's more, "he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct."
These new allegations are unrelated to a December 2013 allegation that Nienstedt inappropriately touched a young boy during a group photo session after a confirmation ceremony in 2009. No charges were filed in that case, but it's reportedly been reopened in light of these new developments.
More details, after the jump.
The Twin Cities Archdiocese confirmed the investigation today, Religion News Service reports.
Nienstedt, 67, said in a separate statement that the allegations "are absolutely and entirely false" and he said he himself authorized the internal investigation, which he called "independent, thorough."
"The allegations do not involve minors or lay members of the faithful, and they do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior," Nienstedt said. "The allegations involve events alleged to have occurred at least a decade ago, before I began serving in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis."
Archbishop Nienstedt emphatically denies the allegations, just as he did in December:
In a written response to Commonweal, Nienstedt dismissed the charges as a "personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage."
He said he also suspects that accusers are making claims because of "difficult decisions" he has made. He told the magazine he could not elaborate because of privacy laws.
As noted above, Archbishop Nienstedt is one of the most obsessively homophobic members of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. Among his worst anti-LGBT moments:
- While serving as the bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota (2007), Nienstedt penned a column warning Catholics not to watch Brokeback Mountain, saying the gay-themed film "make[s] evil look so attractive."
- In 2010, just before the midterm elections, Nienstedt and his colleagues in the Minnesota Catholic Conference mailed 400,000 DVDs to every Catholic household in the state, whether they wanted to receive it or not. The DVDs contained a message opposing marriage equality; Nienstedt recorded the introduction.
- Nienstedt denied communion to a group of students at St. John's University in October 2010 because they were wearing rainbow buttons in support of LGBT equality and in protest of the DVD campaign.
- In December 2011, he injected a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass itself.
- The following month, he told priests in his diocese that if they opposed the Minnesota Catholic Church's campaign to pass a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, they'd better shut up about it. He also ordered them to organize grassroots political committees in their parishes to work for passage of the amendment -- at parish expense.
- Nienstedt's anti-LGBT spiritual bullying was endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI in March of 2012.
- He instituted mandatory marriage discrimination lectures in Catholic high schools across the archdiocese.
- His archdiocese spent more than $650,000 of church funds supporting the ill-fated 2012 referendum effort to add a marriage discrimination amendment to Minnesota's constitution.
- In September 2013, Nienstedt claimed that Satan -- "the Father of Lies" -- causes marriage equality.
- Archbishop Nienstedt was accused in October 2013 of covering up sexual abuse and possession of child pornography by priests -- all the while attacking LGBT people and crusading against marriage equality.
- Perhaps most infamously, he told the mother of an LGBT child -- who wrote to him pleading for acceptance of her gay son -- that she risked her eternal salvation if she failed to accept the Catholic Church's homophobic teachings.
- In December 2013, as mentioned above, he was accused of inappropriately touching a young boy on the buttocks.
You know what they say about the ones who scream the loudest...
h/t: Joe. My. God.