Archbishop Nienstedt: I will not resign. (Updated)

In a column that will be published tomorrow, the embattled archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis says he will not resign. Soon after I reported that Archbishop John Nienstedt was being investigated for a series allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other adult men--part of which is now complete--an affidavit filed by Nienstedt's former top canon lawyer strongly criticized the archdiocese's sexual-abuse policies and practicies. Calls for his resignation began to grow. Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an editorial urging the archbishop to step down. So did the New York Times. But Nienstedt won't go.

Eighteen years ago, Pope John Paul II chose me to serve the Church as a bishop, an authentic successor of the apostles. A bishop’s role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO. I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here. I have acknowledged my responsibility in the current crisis we face, and I also take responsibility for leading our archdiocese to a new and better day.

“This is what the Lord says to you," Nienstedt's column continues, citing Second Chronicles: "'Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn’t belong to you, but to God.'"

Apologizing for the "distractions I have inadvertently caused," the archbishop emphasizes three things about his response to the months-long scandal. First, he announces that he has a new leadership team that operates with the philosophy of "Victims First." In consultation with victims, Nienstedt says he plans to hire a new victims liason--who will be a layperson. Second, he claims that he has never knowingly covered up sexual abuse. He admits that he was too trusting of the archdiocese's process, and that "we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past." And third, Nienstedt says that he has always been honest with his people. Over the past year, according to the archbishop, he has learned that he must change his leadership  style.

"As author Matthew Kelly reminds us," Nienstedt concludes, "we as Catholics have a great story to tell, but we have let others tell the story for us. We need to get back to telling the story ourselves."

Update: I asked archdiocesan spokesman Jim Accurso when the investigation of Nienstedt would conclude and whether the investigating law firm's report would be made public. In response, he sent me a statement from auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, which read in part: "I have received [the law firm] Greene Espel’s information. However, this matter involves more than just their role. The investigation is ongoing and I will respond appropriately as the review process continues."

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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