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Archbishop Nienstedt under investigation. (UPDATED)

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is being investigated for “multiple allegations” of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men, according to the archbishop’s former top canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger. The investigation is being conducted by a law firm hired by the archdiocese. Nienstedt denies the allegations.

The investigation was spurred by information the archdiocese received late last year, according to another person with knowledge of the investigation. (This inquiry is not related to a December 2013 accusation that Nienstedt touched a boy’s buttocks during a confirmation photo shoot. The archbishop denied that allegation, and, following an investigation, the county prosecutor did not bring charges. Reportedly the case has been reopened.) 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.”

The allegations are nothing more than 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,” Nienstedt said in a written statement. He also suspects that accusers are coming forward because of “difficult decisions” he has made, but, citing privacy laws, he would not elaborate.

“I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone,” Nienstedt told me. “The allegations are a decade old or more, prior to my service as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” he continued, emphasizing that “none of the allegations involve minors or illegal or criminal behavior.” The “only accusation,” Nienstedt explained, is of “improper touching (of the person’s neck),” and was made by a former priest.

The archbishop has been under intense scrutiny since September 2013, when Haselberger went public with damning accounts of the way the archdiocese had dealt with clerics accused of sexual misconduct. One of those priests was Curtis Wehmeyer, a man with a history of inappropriate sexual behavior who was nevertheless promoted by Nienstedt to become pastor of two parishes. Wehmeyer went on to molest children at one of those parishes. One of the questions investigators have been asking is whether the archbishop had an unprofessional relationship with Wehmeyer.

“Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer was an archdiocesan priest and I was his archbishop,” Nienstedt said. He characterized his relationship with Wehmeyer as “professional” and “pastoral,” and explained that it preceded his “learning of [Wehmeyer’s] sexual abuse of minors.”

Nienstedt was named an auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 1996, and became bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, in 2001. Just six years later he was appointed coadjutor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He was installed as archbishop in 2008. Before long, Nienstedt had established one of the signature issues of his episcopate: homosexuality. His statements on that issue add controversy to the investigation of his own behavior.

“Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts…formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin,” Nienstedt wrote late in 2007. That echoed a column he wrote the year before—while bishop of New Ulm—cautioning Catholics against watching Brokeback Mountain, a film about two married cowboys who fall for one another. He wondered whether Hollywood knew just how dangerous their “agenda” was: “Surely they must be aware that they have turned their backs on God and the standards of God in their quest to make evil look so attractive.”

Before the 2010 midterm elections, Nienstedt turned his attention to the burgeoning gay-marriage movement. He recorded an introduction on a DVD opposing gay marriage, which was sent to four hundred thousand Minnesota Catholics. The same year a Catholic mother wrote to him pleading for acceptance for her gay son. He recommended she consult the Catechism. “Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation [sic] of heart on this topic,” he replied. And in 2012, Nienstedt led a coalition of religious leaders pushing for an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Reportedly, Nienstedt committed $650,000 to those efforts. The amendment failed.

But by the fall of 2013, Nienstedt’s focus would be pulled away from gay marriage to an issue of greater urgency: the sexual abuse of children by priests. In September of last year, Minnesota Public Radio reported that the archdiocese was aware of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer’s history of misconduct when Nienstedt promoted him to pastor. He refused to inform the parish staff of Wehmeyer’s troubling past. The cleric eventually molested the children of a parish employee.

As MPR and other news outlets continued coverage of that and related stories, Archbishop Nienstedt announced a task force that would review “any and all issues” related to clergy misconduct. Its fifty-three page report—released April 14—criticized the archdiocese for “serious shortcomings,” but did not mention the investigation of Nienstedt. That's because the task force "was established to review the archdiocesan policies on clergy misconduct toward minors," Nienstedt said. By the time Greene Espel learned about the task force, the group had "disbanded," having completed its report, according to Bishop Piché. "Nevertheless," he continued, "a call from an archdiocesan official promptly was made to a former member of the task force." The task force has stated that it will not speak publicly about its report. [Update: MPR reports that the chair of the task force "said she knew nothing about the investigation."]  *

Around the time the task force published its report, Greene Espel attorneys phoned Haselberger to set up a meeting, but she was skeptical. “There is no precedent in the church for an investigation of this kind,” she told me. Since she resigned last year, “the archdiocese has been distinctly hostile toward me.” That “caused me to wonder if this was some sort of trick.” Her skepticism diminished when she met with the lawyers days later. They produced a January 31 letter from Nienstedt to auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché authorizing him to oversee an investigation, Haselberger said, along with an e-mail naming another priest to act as a liaison between the archdiocese and the investigators.

“I did this for the benefit of the archdiocese,” Nienstedt explained, because “I knew it would be unfair to ignore the allegations simply because I knew them to be false.” And that’s what he would have done if he learned of similar allegations against any priest, the archbishop said.

Haselberger informed Greene Espel attorneys of a letter she’d seen from Wehmeyer to Nienstedt thanking the archbishop for a recent dinner. She also told investigators that the archbishop had asked for assistance in arranging for him to visit Wehmeyer in the inpatient sex-offender treatment program where he was residing before sentencing. At the time he had not met with Wehmeyer’s victims or their family, according to Haselberger. The archbishop denied that he sought such assistance, and said he never visited Wehmeyer in prison or at any treatment facility.

Greene Espel lawyers wanted to know whether Nienstedt asked to visit any other detained priests. Two other priests had been in jail while Nienstedt was in St. Paul. They had both been released by January of 2013, when Nienstedt wanted to visit Wehmeyer. “To my knowledge,” Haselberger replied, “he never visited them or expressed any desire to do so.” As far as she could recall, Nienstedt struck up a friendship with Wehmeyer “after I warned him about Wehmeyer’s history in 2009.” Nienstedt said that the two had a “professional, pastoral relationship” before he learned that Wehmeyer had abused children.

Haselberger asked the Green Espel attorneys what the firm planned to do with the information it was gathering. “They said that their task was to investigate, and that they would be providing a report to the archdiocese,” she said. Once the report is complete, Nienstedt told me, it will be given to the pope’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who will presumably inform the pope about its contents.

“I pray that the truth would come out as a result of the investigation,” Nienstedt said.

* This paragraph has been corrected. The original version included a comment from Nienstedt erroneously claiming that Greene Espel had advised the archdiocese not to inform the task force of the investigation of the archbishop.


Update: Archbishop Nienstedt released this statement after my story was published. Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché also released a statement.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Riveting. Appreciate your work Grant. Paradoxically, the Archbishop makes history by authorizing an outside investigation into his own behavior. The positive is that this sets a precedent, unless there is another case, where the head of a diocese is investigated by ecclesiastical permission. 

Reminiscent of Cardinal O'Brien.

I can't help but wonder whether the Archbishop is actually hoping that the investigative group will find and reveal the truth -- truth that he himself has repressed.  Yes, he's reminscent of Cardinal O'Brien.  Tragic.

Self-hating, psychosexually immature, deeply closeted gay men tend to be the most homophobic of public figures.

On one hand I feel deeply sorry for him.  On the other, I viscerally am shouting:  "Yes, yes.  Get the SOB."

All corruption of power in the church hierarchy needs to get stopped. The full truth needs to be exposed in order for children to be protected today.

Sadly the sex abuse and cover up within the church is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways. Until many of these bishops are demoted, disciplined, and held accountable for their crimes of enabling child predators nothing has changed. It is still business as usual.

Sex abuse thrives in secrecy and secret systems that allow it to continue to this day.
Silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others
Judy Jones, SNAP,  Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

I am wondering if, in the statment attributed to Archbishop Nienstedt, "Your eternal salvation may well depend on a conversation of heart . . . ," the word "conversion" is meant instead of "conversation." 

While "unwanted sexual advances" towards other adults may make him unfit to be a bishop, its not a crime. If these unwanted advances involved force or coercion, that would be different (and I imagine, then it would be a crime). But is the claim, basically, that he hit on people?   I think most of us have been the recipient of those kinds of "advances"  at different times, I don't know -if that;s all there is- that it makes sense to lump it in with sexual abusers. 

Facebook:  Question any action by anyLBGTQ and you are a bigot, hateful person.

Make any unproven allegation against a member of the Catholic clergy- Gotta be true-say no more!

-Only on Facebook.

While "unwanted sexual advances" towards other adults may make him unfit to be a bishop, its not a crime.

Unless the other adults are working under his authority and he risks retaliating against them if they reject his advances. Like, for example, a professor and one of his non-minor students.

A widespread lament here in Minnesota:  How long, O Lord?

You must have discovered the " Da-Vinci Code"!

The allegations will stop when the million dollar settlements stop.

First announce that there will be no cash reward.  After that the investigation may start to have some credibility.

This was all so predictable and oh so very pathetic.  Archbishop Nienstedt is a strong Bishop who came into the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and started cleaning up the parishes, especially those which had gone too long with rogue and unfaithful priests. 

He built up the Seminary which is overflowing with dedicated young men. He is a  holy and strong leader. He had the nerve though to go against the large LBGT community in Minnesota and the secular soulless elite with the campaign against the false premise of gay marriage.  That was the reason why he is being attacked non stop. This is how the enemy works

The false accusation by the young man of being groped while having a group picture taken didn't work for the LGBT community so they have now found another way to attack.  I am sure they have plenty of men who are willing to come forward and lie to further their attack against the Archbishop. The problem is that they always try to attack in the media first because they know they can create havoc and unrest and suspicion in those who are not solid in their faith and in the end, when, their lies are exposed, the media is nowhere to be found. 

Everyone has to live with what they do and will be judged in the end by a higher power, the Lord God. As the Lord said to Saul, Why are you persecuting me?  When you attack His followers, you attack Him.  I will pray that the Lord will bring this evil to an early end and that those involved in it, will be able to see themselves as the Lord sees them. 


Sexual harrassment in the "workplace" is a crime ...

Deb and Pat,

That's pretty much Phil Donahue's line before (and even after) the magnitude of the coverups of sexual abuse became public. We should reserve judgement until the investigation provides us with evidence on which to base our judgements. Asserting that this is an evil plot is a good way to protect the guilty.

Ms. Brunsberg - please save us from your propoganda.

Archdiocese - has roughly 400 priests for 850,000 catholics;  25% of these priests are religious.  Average age is well over 60 years old.

Nienstedt ordained six men this year; ten last year which was the largest class since 2005 (before Neinstedt's time).  Half those ordained are older candidates - more than 35 years old.

He built up the seminary - really?  The stats indicate that this is an embellishment that isn't convincing.  Next year - he hopes to have 8 students in 3rd theology, 8 in 2nd theology, and 11 in 1st theology.  If anything, appears to be an expensive use of archdiocesan money to maintain a theology seminary when you barely have 25 students residing there?

As Neinstedt's antics become more and more publicized, let's see what the long term impact is on both the seminary numbers and the archdiocese.  Even if all of these students were ordained, it would not keep up with those dying and retiring and leaving.

On anothe rnote - you reference the *false* allegation of the young man - it appears that the case has now been re-opemed.  Wouldn't be too quick to jump to the use of the term *false* - yes, it is still an allegation but we don't know enough in terms of whether it is false or not.

Finally, your homophobia is showing in your comment.

Pat and Deb --

You talk as though Archbishop Nienstedt has given no evidence of being an enabler of homosexual behavior, when in fact he clearly enabled Fr. Wehmeyer to engage in child abuse by appointing pastor not once but twice after Wehmeyer had been credibly accused of abuse.  These appointments clearly put him on the side of the abuser. 

 Apparenly there really is such a thing as repression -- the refusal of the unconscious to allow socially unacceptable feelings into consciousness.  But repression does not excuse his enabling -- his conscious self knows that it is wrong.   Time you recognized that fact for the sake of the children. If you care about him, you'll pray for him, not make excuses in the face of clear evidence of wrongdoing. 

Kind of like all those lies they told about Marciel Maciel of the Legionnaires of Christ, right?

Oh...wait...they were true. 

10 allegations? I can understand 1 being a fake but how many allegation of multiple contacts have been fake.

Keep up with the paranoia about the gay community. It's served you folks well in the past up until the time the truth came out. 


Jim McC. --

Do you know how the psychiatrists explain such repression and consequent misbehavior?  On the surface such a theory does seem totally counter-intuitive, but apparently it is quite real.  Poor man.

Bill deH. --

Those clergy figurers sound like the boast by an English order several years ago that its convent population had increased by 20% in just the last two years.  When someone checked out the figures they found something like this:  instead of the of 4 novices of the previous year, the novice population went up to 5.  Vatican statistics.

The Archdiocese of St Paul has both an undergraduate and a graduate seminary.  I do not know the enrollment of either, but do know that the undergraduate institution at least, and possibly the graduate one as well, enrolls students from all over the country.  This helps explain a large enrollment, but does not answer the question about how many students are studying for the Archdiocese itself.


I believe the situation is where someone splits off behavior or views they cannot face consciously and therefore reject. Denial can be very powerful. It's actually the perfect cover.

But how often have we seen the outspoken opponent actually trying to convince him or herself when the reality is otherwise? The unconscious exposes the lie.

Yes, may the truth be known.

Thank you, Bill, for your comments to Pat and Deb. Their ignorance about survivors is encyclopedic.

Yes, Archbishop showed strength in his fight against same sex 'marriage', and now the gay mob will not stop until they have him, but he's strong and will continue to fight the good fight.


Michael - only cited the graduate seminary, St. Paul's.  The divinity school is actually part of St. Thomas University and trains both clerical and lay students.  So, was focusing just on the seminary (obviously, the divinity school as part of St. Thomas is very large)......the college has more but that is meaningless at this point in time.  There is a substantial and significant drop out rate from undergraduate to diaconate.  But, your point is correct - the seminary houses both undergraduate and graduate and could find one example of other diocesan students - reference to 26 Theology I students (11 of these are from the archdiocese).

If it accepts students from other dioceses, then that might mitigate the operating expenses but it doesn't change the fact that the archdiocesan vocation picture is still not as robust as the original commenter tried to pass off.

Ann - psychiatrists do explain the alleged Nienstedt behaviors and Jim McCrea did a good job of summarizing it - self-hatred that is so deep and has become so ingrained that a permanent defensive posture is taken that attacks all homosexuals in order to over-compensate for his own homosexuality which he has denied, shoved down, etc.  Eventually, the denial mechanisms no longer work and you begin to see acting out behaviors.  These may be sporadic - momentary loss of control before the self-loathing hatred expressed in total control re-exerts itself.

Eventually, you can reach a point in which the core identity is questionned - so, it can be much more than just immature psycho-sexual development.

Pat and Deb, it's exactly such an unsympathetic attitude toward sex-crimes survivors that keeps them from coming forward.  

Bill deH. --

Thanks.  It just seems to be totally irrational -- to think that loathing others will somehow cure one's self-hatred.  But Freud never said the unconscious is rational, quite the contrary.  And that's why I do feel sorry for anyone with such a problem.

Maybe if people talked more openly about this particular possibility the bishops who suffer from the problem, as well as others, might not hate themselves so much.  But then we'd have to wonder what's going on in our own unconscious selves, and we don't want to do that either.

Exactly, Angela.  The summary judgment is survivors are just money-grubbers. To walk with a survivor for years through the diocesan legal meatgrinder, while dealing  with the mendacity of bishops, is sadtly beyond their understanding.

Shouldn't Pope Francis order Archishop Nienstedt to suspend his ministry and not wear clerical garb during the investigation?

William, that error is in the original. I've added "sic" to the quote.

Pat Mallory:                

You wrote,

First announce that there will be no cash reward.  After that the investigation may start to have some credibility.

Are you saying there should never be cash awards?  If so, why do you think that?  And if you do think that, do you believe that any form of compensation should be given in cases in which sexual abuse has been established?  If so, what forms of compensation?


The Archbishop did not show strength. He exposed weakness. He gave legislators proof about the actual voters in their districts felt about marriage equality.

So, Grant, not trying to be cynical here but in reading Nienstedt's response to these reports, he appears to state that any allegations about criminal behaviors are false.

Does this mean that it is possible that other allegations about behaviors with adults may not be false?  Could one imagine that he is splitting hairs with this public statement?

And what if some of the allegations come from priests serving in his archdiocese or former diocese?  Under most legal statutes, this would be considered a form of sexual harassment and criminal activity?

Sorry, but the infamous Bill Clinton's statement about *is* continues to echo in my mind.

Ann Olivier,

We have a tendency to try to make our lives balance out on some scale. The closeted homophobe will see what he calls a moment of weakness as something that is relatively minor compared to all the supposed good he is doing by pushing society against the gays.

The Archbishop's position was widely known; he was incredibly brave. What other catholic clergy in recent days has shown this kind of courage? Half of the voters, or nearly half voted for the state constitution to be amended to be only between one man and one woman. He spoke for a huge segment of society, actually, and not just for those in Minnesota.,_Amendment_...

One wonders what Hazelberger's position on this must be.

Missy - try to at least spell her name correctly.

And your conspiracy theory holds no water - there is no connection between Nienstedt's ridiuclous gay marriage stance and what she knows about the cover ups in the chancery and by the bishop.

If you want to talk about *bravery* - why don't you review her actions and life; that she resigned based upon principle (not ideology) in an effort to protect the children and their families in the church.

Your allegation is snarky; if not, slanderous.


I suspect that her position is that we should treat allegations of abuse seriously rather than automatically demonizing people who might be victims of sexual abuse as greedy and part of some grand conspiracy.

Ann:  what Bill deH said @ 10:42 closely replicates the experience I have had.  If a man (I can't speak for lesbians/women) is either so fearful of being discovered to be gay or so self-loathing about the idea, he will usually project that fear/self-loathing on to others who he views to be what he is but doesn't want to be.  He will also, if he is a public figure, do all he can to divert any attention from himself, quite often by directing negative criticism of those who he can use as pre-emptive scapegoats.

Fear and/or self-loathing are terrible conditions that can not only damage the individual but people around him, either unintentionally or, in many cases, intentionally.   "Lord, I am not like those other people."

My apologies for misspelling her name.

But I suggest you review the spelling of 'ridiculous' considering especially the content of your post.

I did not dispute that the disgusting actions of the gay priests. They should have been made public, and Archbishop did not do his job there, no doubt. The pope should come down hard on all of these men, but fails to do so.

But, this doesn't mean that her own ideas about what marriage should be did not come into play regarding this Archbishop and his actions with adult men. Whether what she says about his actions, the Archbishop's, is true or not, they are not crimes and her publicly discussing them serves only one side of the argument.

Jim McC. --

Thank you.  Interesting, isn't it, that the Vatican and some American bishops direct their nastiness at homosexual men in the seminaries and at priests, but they never seem to bother about lesbian nuns.  In other words, the issue for them is really gay priests -- and that is consistent with the psychological diagnosis that their motives are simply their own deep psychological problems.  If the problem were really homosexuality as such they would also try to eliminate lesbian nuns.  So very, very sad.  

So, Missy, let me get this straight. Even if the allegations against Neindstadt do turn out to be true, we shouldn't discuss them because doing so "serves only one side of the argument" about same-sex marriage?

Right now, the allegations about this bishop are still unproven. However, since there are apparently quite a few allegations, one might suspect fire because of the amount of smoke. We can't really judge the man right now because we don't yet know what is needed to know to come to a judgment.

That said, a couple of questions for you -

Missy, does the "gay mob" you refer to include gay bishops?  Gay priests? 

Are you able to differentiate between homosexuality and pedophilia?

Are you aware of how the term "gay mob" comes across? How it conveys a strong and unchristian scent of homophobia and seems to deny the church's teaching that all must  respect the dignity of  gay people?

Are bishops part of the "gay mob" except when they oppose civil marriage for gays? 

You say there is no "criminal behavior" - which is pretty much the same thing the bishop himself said - is this an attempt to mislead?  If someone is intimidated by a superior, they often can be forced into a relationship they don't want.  Is it not the same for clerics? Is it not against the law for a bishop to use his position of authority over seminarians and priests to sexually harrass them?  It is not yet known if Nienstedt is guilty of that, but, many bishops have had to step down from office because of their gay relationships (consensual and non) with seminarians and priests. 

Cardinal O'Brien of Scotland was a loud and vocal opponent of civil gay marriage in Britain, sometimes resorting to insulting and very extreme language (madness, grotesque, etc).  As senior prelate in Scotland, he also prevented an audit into the sexual abuse of children by priests (pedophiles) from going forward.  Eventually the priests whom he had sexually harrassed summoned up enough courage to speak out.  The current case and the O'Brien case have many similarities, with both prelates failing to take action on the sexual abuse of children, as well as both opposing gay marriage in the civil sector in terms that could only be called "unchristian". 

Finally, there is the issue of hypocrisy. It is very clear that O'Brien was hypocritical - not only in violating his vows, but in condemning all gay sexual relationships while engaging in them. We already know that Nienstedt protected a priest-pedophile, but we do not yet know if Nienstedt also broke his vows and broke them while abusing his authority as bishop.

What will be your response if this investigation proves the allegations are true?

You seem to believe that this bishop was "courageous" in opposing gay marriage, but, normally, defending the status quo takes little courage. The courage is shown by those who are no longer willing to accept a status quo that involves injustice under the laws of the country. Many African Americans showed great courage when they finally decided to oppose the status quo - to oppose the laws and those who supported laws that denied them equal rights under the law.  The bishops are fighting civil laws - nobody is suggesting changing the laws of the various religious groups who believe that matrimony, as a religious solemnification of marriage, is reserved to opposite sex couples only.

What courage is found in opposing civil rights for minorities?  What courage is found in trying to impose one's own religious beliefs in the civil sector on those who do not share them?



Drop the stones at least until the investigation has run its course.  

Well, let me see. How about this? Let's begin by discussing all of YOUR non-illegal actions, publicly.

The Archbishop has made mistakes no doubt. But that didn't stop him from defending marriage the way God intended it to be. He showed courage.

Now, if he had tried to drag fellow priests kicking and screaming into a marriage contract of some kind with him, this would be different.

All homosexual activity is a sin, and he knows that.




Wait. Are you actually claiming that traditional marriage is the status quo?!! hahaha

There seems a palpable hatred of LGBT people in Missy's comments.  It's because of stuff like this that the church should be *against* discrimination instead of trying to justify it (

Faulty logic. And not true.

The palpable hatred is what you have for our beloved Catholic church, and its true teachings about homosexuality.

The "true teaching" of the church about homosexuality is a combination of a misinterpretation of scripture and a misplaced evotion to Aquinas' view of Arssitotle.  It's not an intriniscally Christian view, as many other Christian denominations have dumped that "true teaching".

evotion = devotion

I agree with Bill about his parsing. He stated that none of the allegations involve minors and none criminal behaviour. He is probably correct but there is a raft of messy civil cases that can come forward that can prove to be embarrassing. 10 sworn affidavits already! I would be sweating if I were him and certainly not coming out swinging. Hubris.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.


I've been in a few homes that have, or had, a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" hanging on the dining-room wall.  I can't help wondering how many gay-hating "good Christians" sit down to eat under a masterpiece painted by a gay man.

And even perhaps with one or two gay men represented in the painting.

”Right now, the allegations about this bishop are still unproven. However, since there are apparently quite a few allegations, one might suspect fire because of the amount of smoke. We can't really judge the man right now because we don't yet know what is needed to know to come to a judgment."

Strange how you whisk away Matthew 7:1-5.

"It is very clear that O'Brien was hypocritical - not only in violating his vows, but in condemning all gay sexual relationships while engaging in them."

First, secular clergy do not take vows. Second, you could claim on the same basis that all Catholics who are in conflict with the letter of church sex ethics are hypocrites. Third, O'Brien was against gay marriage but he did not condemn gay relationships in concreto, but had the usual pastoral outlook of understanding accommodation. Fourth, you do not know what the state of his conscience was about the gay relationships he had. 

Jim McCrea, when you write: "On one hand I feel deeply sorry for him.  On the other, I viscerally am shouting:  "Yes, yes.  Get the SOB."" you give credence to those who talk of the "gay mob". 


"You talk as though Archbishop Nienstedt has given no evidence of being an enabler of homosexual behavior, when in fact he clearly enabled Fr. Wehmeyer to engage in child abuse by appointing pastor not once but twice after Wehmeyer had been credibly accused of abuse.  These appointments clearly put him on the side of the abuser."


Ann Olivier, it is very hurtful to gay folk to have "homosexual behavior" amalgamated with "child abuse" as you do here, I hope not deliberately. Also, diocesan officials know of Wehmeyer's interested in 19 year old boys, viz "homosexual behavior". That is what your are referring to when you say the bishop know that Wehmeyer was "credibly accused of abuse". You write in such a way as to suggest that the bishop knew that Wehmeyer was known to be credibly accused of child abuse, a very different thing. 


" Interesting, isn't it, that the Vatican and some American bishops direct their nastiness at homosexual men in the seminaries and at priests, but they never seem to bother about lesbian nuns.  In other words, the issue for them is really gay priests -- and that is consistent with the psychological diagnosis that their motives are simply their own deep psychological problems.  If the problem were really homosexuality as such they would also try to eliminate lesbian nuns."

I never heard anyone complain that they could not stay in a convent because of a prevailing lesbian atmosphere, and I never heard that lesbian sisters are sexually active to  a high degree. The Vatican have presumably not heard such complaints either. The women in Irish Magdalene Laundries were never sexually abused by the sisters, perhaps an indication that sisters are sexually more sober and respectful than male clerics.

"The irony is most sweet and I for one hope that Nienstedt ends up being exposed for exactly what he condemns in others. The hypocrisy of the man would be shown to be complete. Note how Nienstedt defends himself by saying that the allegations did not involve minors. Isn't that just special!"


This is Michael-in-Norfolk in "gay mob" mode.


He continues: "I hope the allegations prove true.  About the only thing that could make the situation more delicious would be to learn that among those with whom Nienstedt had relationships are Ken Cuccinelli and Rick Santorum, two other tortured, self-loathing closeted gays."


This is where Commonweal and the NCR seem to hang out these days.

Fr. O'Leary: re: your comment of July 3rd, 4:37 am (your most recent as I compose this comment): I didn't see the comment here from which you quote - the one referencing Ken Cuccinelli and Rick Santorum?  From what are you quoting?

Ah yes, JOL to the rescue.  The endless posts now from the underground gay clerical ranks to protect one of their own.  Are we furiously circling the wagons?

Let's just let this play out rather than be subjected to your endless Lancan fivorlities and ridiculousnesses?

Why don't you pay attention to what his former second in command said and did - Laird resigned and told Nienstedt to do the same.  Read his deposition-it might slow your rantings.

Maybe everyone should take the high road and stop the innuendo, against Niendstedt, Haselberger, those individuals who have accused Nienstedt, the so-called GLBT "community" (as if we are not part of their "community" or they are not part of ours), and those who have the effrontery to ask for compensation for having been the object of abuse.  One and all.

Also, sexual harassment of employees is not criminal (assuming it didn't involve an actual criminal assault).

And the problem I have with the idea of repressed homosexuality giving rise to especially virulent gay bashing is that for every example I can think of, I can also think of especially virulent gay bashing by indisputably straight people.  Like, say, some of the comments in this thread.

Barbara - thank you!

JOL:  to me, there is nothing more despicable than a Roman Catholic churchman who wraps himself in disgusting (self-)righteousness and does all he can do to repress the LGBT communities (we are not a homogeneous group but as many and varied as heterosexuals), all the while he himself is guilty of acting out his sexual repression on those over whom he has some form of power or control.  I am quite happy when one of these men is revealed for the hypocrite that he is.

I put these men on a plane even lower than politicians who are guilty of the same because politicians (usually) claim no moral status for themselves nor their pontifications or actions, nor rely on their organization that makes a point of bolstering this claim.

If that makes me a member of the “gay mob,” so be it.

...indisputably straight people.


From time to time, intrepid explorers return from remote areas of the world with reports that straight people exist, but there is no scientific consensus about them. And at this level of discourse, nothing is beyond dispute.

I always learn something from Barbara's comments, and I admire her habits of thought: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.

The quote I gave above is from :

Generally, I like Michael's postings -- he is a friend of Andrew Sullivan (who seems to be more cautious on his issue).

Let's all reread Matthew 7:1-5.

checking, this is what Sullivan has:

He does seem to jump the gun as well, but possibly less ardently given his huge blooper over the Tuam Babies story.

John Prior:  True.  Nothing is certain or beyond dispute.  One is always working with probabilities. 

P.S.  John, if you approach this from the side of GLBT identity (especially the "T"), I think you understand what I mean -- there is nothing more infuriating than having other people seek to define you from their own perspective and values.  That is the ecosystem which generates a belief in the possibility of "converting" gay men and women to heterosexuals. 

Although I do understand that a person is more likely to "pretend" to be something they are not when society considers the assumed status to be normative, nonetheless, trying to define someone else is not a less suspect undertaking just because the object of the undertaking self-identifies as being part of a majority. 


...there is nothing more infuriating than having other people seek to define you from their own perspective and values.

And nothing more confusing, either. Because the next day, if the rhetorical occasion calls for it, they will declare themselves sinners hopelessly astray and in need of redemption. Yet still utterly sure of their prescriptions for other people's lives.

Maybe it's just a matter of having too much time on one's hands. If you have renounced sexual expression in all its forms and chosen a life of celibacy, you will have the leisure to work out "natural law," bind life tightly in syllogisms, and make everything tidy and clear.

Nature scoffs and life moves on. But real people suffer needlessly.

John Prior, for all you or I know, the bishop may really be trying to honor a commitment to celibate continence. He is mocked for that as if it were impossible. He may have all sorts of problems and may have made foolish, ambiguous gestures or simply been misinterpreted -- as could happen to anyone. People seem to be in a huge rush to convict him of hypocrisy, perhaps fearing that be the time the investigation is complete the story will have paled and will not offer the same juicy red meat for venting rage. All very typical of American society today.


I confess that when I wrote that second paragraph. I was scarcely thinking of John Nienstedt or of difficulties in maintaining celibacy. I had Thomas Aquinas more in mind, and all the long train of experts down to the present day who are sure they can discern God's will for others as well as for themselves without getting up from their chairs and going out to examine his masterwork in any detail. The world as it actually exists confounds such assurance. It seems to me.

As for Nienstedt, I am in no rush to convict him of hypocrisy. I would be content never to have heard of him. But I think that something is lost when any bishop becomes the center of attention in his see.

Barbara: > "One is always working with probabilities."

Decision-making in the real world almost always means working with partial infornation, including information that has unknown accuracy and ranging precision.  In these circumstances, it is useful to use the mathematics of stochastic processes (including "personal probabiltes" for some problems) to help guide good decisons. This may be true even when a "true" condition exists.  If summoned to a jury, I must reach a decision under uncertainty, and so I will use me sort of "probabilitie" as guides.

I took your initial point to be that we Commonweal readers hoave no pending decision, judgment is not called for.  [Which also is one non-theological way of reading Mark, too.] The Nuncio will reach a decision, peraps the Pope, too. If we were members of the Diocese of Minneapolis, we might have other decisions to make. Right now, I do not.

But others may make a condiional proposition: If the  is true, then I am justified to feel ...

Mark L


John Prior, I don't disagree with you.  And especially -- the focus on the person (here, Nienstedt) obliterates true discussion -- whether these allegations are true or whether they are false does not resolve anything or help people who are suffering needlessly, as you say.  I think people want these allegations to be true because they want to show that the emperor has no clothes so definitively that it must shift the paradigm of the discussion.  As you also say, it might shitf the paradigm, but probalby only back to the "we are all sinners in need of redemption," rather than, maybe we need to recognize the natural order has more dimensions than we want to admit.  This is why I no longer grace the Catholic Church with my presence, I just can't stand this endless, closed loop.

Obviously, we have to wait and see what plays out - the firm hired by the church to investigate the church - sounds suspiciously like the church appointing Whitt to "oversee" and limit data, on the supposedly independent council earlier in the year.  As far as the allegations go, first off, I personally don't want this to cloud the child abuse crisis that's apparently ongoing - two consenting adults... I have a small issue with the supervisor/ underling relationship, but not really.

I do find it beyond ironic though if it turns out to be true, after his hate-filled rage toward homosexuals, and their parents. And often, where there's smoke, there's a guy sitting on the edge of the bed, or in an easy chair, smoking a cigarette, with a relaxed look on his face......

Reading Jennifer Haselberger's testimony, what a courageous woman, what a nightmare she was exposed to.

It's going to take a long time to heal.

 One ought to begin an examination of the problem of "sexuality and the priesthood" with the understanding that the Church's rule of celibacy contradicts the prctice ofJesus who according to tradition called eleven married men (and one unmarried --  John) to be the Apostles from whom all ordained receive their authority. The Orthodox Churches allow a married clergy and their decent from the Apostles is as valid as that of the Bishop of Rome. The Church's teachings condemning  masturbation as a mortal sin; the Church's demand that every conjugal act have procreation as its primary goal; the Church's condemning al sexual relations outside of marriage -- These are all denials of the person as an embodied being, and therefore they are "disordered teachings." With this understanding I believe that:

If a priest or Bishop has mature sexual relations with another freely consenting human being, male or female, I find no fault and hope that the experience of his own humanity would make him compassionate toward others suffering from the  "disorded" Church teachings on homosexuality and on sex outside of marriage..

If a priest or Bishop uses his position of authority to coerce another under his supervision into a sexual relationship, this is a grievous offense against justice and mercy.

If a priest or Bishop lets another know that he is sexually interested but respects the other's rejection and does nothing to harm the other's interests, this is in the nature of sexuality and there is no fault. 

If a priest or Bishop enters into a freely consenting sexual relationship with another and in return allows the other to commit acts of injustice like preying on young children this is a grievous offense against justice and mercy.


Please forgive the spelling and grammar errors. I didn't review the wording.

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