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Archbishop Nienstedt under investigation: a brief update.

Two weeks ago, I reported that for the past several months, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been under investigation for "multiple allegations" of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other adult men, according to those who were interviewed by the law firm conducting the inquiry. A couple of days after I posted that story, auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché--who is overseeing the investigation--sent an e-mail to the priests of the archdiocese, explaining that the timing of the release of that news was "not of my choosing," and that "whatever facts you will need to know about the investigation will be made known to you at the appropriate time." The bishop also told Twin Cities priests that he "was instructed by the firm conducting the investigation that the interviews must be carried out under the strictest confidence for the sake of the integrity of the investigation itself." Once the firm's report is complete, he wrote, "there will need to be some time to make an evaluation of those facts as to their credibility and import."

That raises several questions, which I posed to the archdiocese last week: Has Nienstedt been interviewed by the investigating law firm (hired by the archdiocese itself)? How is that firm being paid, and how much does it cost? When will the investigation conclude? Will the firm's final report be made public? And will the archdiocese send an unedited version of that report to the apostolic nuncio once it's completed?

In a written reply, Archbishop Nienstedt said that he did meet with the investigators, and that he "answered their questions to the best of my ability."

Later, Piché responded with another written statement. He explained that the archdiocese is paying for the investigation, but he did not tell me how much it costs. He also said that he did not know when the investigation will conclude. I asked whether the archdiocese will use the law firm's report to create another document that it will then share with Twin Cities priests, or whether it will share the whole report as it was originally written? I also asked whether  the report will be made public, or whether the archdiocese will release to the public certain "need to know" facts from the investigation? "It’s premature to answer these questions," the bishop replied.

As for the question of whether the papal nuncio will receive the report in its entirety, unedited, Piché wrote: "The nuncio will receive a complete report."

About the Author

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



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Related story and 1-hour audio reporting on cover-ups of Archbishops Roche, Flynn and Nienstadt on clerical abuse of children in Minn. diocese.  I found it pretty devastating.


Had enough, fellow sheeple?

Sometimes a public figure is just so badly damaged he loses his ability to serve effectively.  I would argue that fairly or unfairly, that is the position in which the Archbishop now finds himself.  He cannot any longer be an effective spokesman, teacher of leader of the Church in Minneapolis.  In such situations, it is best to go away.  I fully understand that it can be difficult to make such a decision, but if you put the good of the whole above your ego, that is what you will do.  A new archbishop, with a new outlook and less baggage would be a gift to the people of the Archdiocese of minneapolis.

I would argue that fairly or unfairly,...

Jim, I understand what you are saying but something seems inherently wrong with the unfairly part.  Essentially "throwing away" or "sacrificing" the Archbishop unfairly seems the antithesis of supporting the dignity of the human person.  In my work people were fired all the time, many times for errors of the organization rather than the individual fired.  While I can see that sometimes one must leave for the good of those remaining, it seems that if one is unfairly accused, perhaps the best course of action is to stay.  Its a concrete way for the group to support the human dignity of the individual.

There may be a simple answer to one of Grant’s questions: “Will the [investigating law] firm’s final report be made public.” The answer will be, no it will not be made public, if the law firm is conducting an internal investigation based on the attorney-client privilege recognized by the Supreme Court in Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383 (1981).


there is a difference between the role of an Archbishop and that of say the Junior assistant accountant for parishes in western Minnesota.  At some point, and I would argue that point has long been reached, the Archbishop can no longer effectively function as a teacher and leader.  Even if things he is being accused of are not true, his credibility is no longer intact.  That is very different from the position of some staff member in a corporation or my Junior accountant.  That person is not called upon to present the Church's position on a whole host of public issues, not to be a prime teacher for the Archdiocese.  If he cannot effectively serve in those roles, he becomes at best a figurehead, at worst he is serving out his time.  From what I've followed of the Archbishop Neistadt situation, he is at least guilty of poor judgement.  I doubt his credibility will ever again rise to the level necessary to effectively carry out his duties.  I think in your example, you might agree that it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the head of the organization, who was responsible for the bad decisions, announced he was resigning as a result of such decisions. 

Is there still any doubt among Catholics that clericalism and its twin brother patriarchy are as good examples of corporate evil as we will ever see?

To answer my own question:  The almost complete corruption of the Catholic priesthood has rendered the clerics and hierarchs hopelessly alienated and dangerously irrelevant from the very people they are supposed to serve - according to their own twisted mythology.

Nienstedt is only the most recent prima facie evidence of the malignancy that corrupts the Catholic priesthood - and the infection is only spreading expotentially as more hierarchs age and die-off.

[Case in point:  Our local Oakland Bishop Michael Barber - a relatively "young" 60 y.o. Jesuit - has completely mucked-up his recent arrival on scene in just his first year in office with mindless displays of narcissistic, condescending and autocratic leadership.  Whatever his motivation, Barber comes across as an ambitious political hack very much in a hurry to climb the clerical ladder.  Strange that Barber seems so at odds with the spirit of his fellow Jesuit Papa Francesco?]

Either we Catholics completely reform and renew the way we do priesthood from parish to pope, or Catholicism itself [not Christianity, necessarily] is fated for extinction perhaps before the end of this century.



As I understand it, the prvilege lies with the client, who may waive it.   Apparently the client is the Diocese, so it is not obvious how, or by whom, a decision to waive privilege would be made.  But at least conceptually, the full report could become public legitimately?

Grant Gallicho:  If you have occasion to communicate with the Archdiocese again, would you please ask if they would simply make the contract between the Archdiocese and the law firm public?  Without knowing what possible parameters might have been set to the investigation and whether funding for the investigation is such to make genuine investigation probable, there is simply no way that we will really be able to interpret their findings, whatever they may be.  Such law firms can play either of two roles in situations like this:  (1) A genuine effort to get to the bottom of things; or (2) mounting a public relations effort for a celebrity who's gotten into a bit of a jam, and making a simulacra of an investigation as part of that effort.

Refusal to provide any real information about how Greene Espel has been tasked makes one of those roles seem far more likely than the other.

However this turns out for Nienstedt, Bishop Piche may well have a bright ecclesiastical career ahead of him.  He seems to be learning to weasel well.

Bruce - you might want to spend the next hour carefully reading this affidavit:

After reading this, if you still want to defend Neinstedt, please go for it but don't boar us here with your parsing and inannities.



Makes one think of when Gov. Keating was hired by the bishops after 2002 when they rejecting his findings and virtually fired him. He bluntly commented that they were "like the Mafia." 

It is refreshing that Grant is putting the Archdiocese on notice that a phony report will not be acceptable. Hopefully this kind of expected accountability will spread to all areas of the church. 



Thank  you for alerting me to Hasselberg's affidavit. Shocking! What I find very interesting is that there are incidents of abuse of women included.  I daresy that is not so common in reports of clergy sexual abuse.

Also, I taught in a Catholic school a few years ago.  We were required to have background checks and participate in the VIRTUS training, a rather intense program alerting us to abuse of minors.  (I found it to be very well done.)  What surprises me is that in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it was required for clergy, although it appears as though it was not implemented. (See page 19 of the Affidavit.) To the best of my knwoledge no priests in the diocese where I taught were required to have background checks and participate in the VIRTUS training.

Bill deHaas,

Thanks for the link.  As I read it, this woman was unhappy with the Archdiocese within months of her employment in 2004.  But sure, let's hang the Archbishop anyway.

Btw, I'll assume that the word you were meant to type was "bore" and not the word that means a male pig.

Jim Dunn,

You dont know the status of the people in the organization I was referenced.  I can assure you they werent some "staff member ... or my Junior Accountant".  While all you say about the Archbishop and his ability to perform his duties has merit, we need to respect his human dignity as well and be careful to not just throw him away.

Amen Jim! Only sheeple would give their money to an institution who uses the money to protect rapists.

Of course, dismiss actual facts.

You appear to have confused her career postions, dates, etc. in order to reinforce your narrative.


Dr. Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who received her licentiate degree in canon law from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2004. She also has a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of London, England, She is a member of the Canon Law Society of America and served on the Resolutions Committee of that Society. She has practiced as a canon lawyer in the United States and internationally.

Following the completion of her academic work, Dr. Haselberger returned to the United States and accepted a position as Judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. She later became Director of the Tribunal of the Diocese of Crookston as well as Director of the Diocesan Safe Environment Program. After serving as the Bishop's Delegate for Canonical Affairs in the Diocese of Fargo, Dr. Haselberger returned to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to serve as Chancellor for Canonical Affairs, a position she held until establishing Canonical Consultation and Services, LLC.

In addition to her ecclesiastical appointments, Dr. Haselberger has provided consultation and advice to bishops, Catholic institutions and organizations, and religious orders. She has served on independent review boards and is a noted speaker on issues relating to canon law and the Catholic Church. 


Bruce, I am totally blown away by your saying that you are concerned for John's dignity! Do you really feel that he is wrongly accused after all that has come out? He should be fired just by the way he is about dealing with this, making him a poor manager. I know someone who was raped by a priest - what about the dignity of the childen that were raped by priests?? What about moving the priests around so they could rape more children?? This is the problem with the Catholic church; this whole feeling that priests are the victims and that they don't answer to the real law (not Canon Law). I pray that John, Kevin and his henchmen to be sued, lose their jobs, and go to jail!


Great work, and now there are the questions about the contract between the law firm and the archdiocese. The legal caveats mentioned above are on target. How about asking for a copy of the contract and see what happens? You and the legal beagles here could decipher the text. 

@Jim Englert: Haven't we all seen the simulacra that masquerade as investigations, versus the genuine article? There's a wonderful New Yorker cartoon showing someone before St. Peter at the pearly gate, where the recently deceased exclaims, "Those aren't lies! That was spin."

@Mark Logsdon: if the diocese holds the privilege, I cannot imagine a full public release (of the original report, not excerpts or a summary) unless there is a whitewash or full exoneration, except for a detail or two. That is why the most reliable investigations are done by independent law enforcement. Who pays is key.

Hermeneutic of suspicion is well warranted, based on experience.

In Ireland we lost some of our best bishops because of this kind of media frenzy, and on the basis of utterly groundless allegations. People like Jim Jenkins who believe that ALL bishops and priests are corrupt will never stop calling for clerical heads, like some latter-day Madame Lafarge. 

Carolyn Disco,

I quite agree that release of the privilege by the Diocese seems very unlikely.  Their lawyers would have a cow, as it were.  But it is not impossible as a matte of law.  Suppose Pope Francis said, Right - that's it   New broom.   Fr Sean, we thank you for your work in Boston (and so many other places).   We need you to step aside on that and your other duties, move to Minneapolis, and sort this out.  Do whatever it is that is neeed to restore to the Faithful belief in the honesty and goodness of our Church.   Do not concer yourself with monetary costs; this is God's work and we will attend to such concerns.

So Fr. Sean causes the privilege to be waived, and we see the contract, the report, its drafts, and all its attachments.

To dream ...

Mark L

Bill deHaas

paragraph 9 page 4  "I determined that I would quit my employment with the archdiocese..."  

That was within a few months of her starting her position.  What fact am I confusing?


Bruce, I am totally blown away by your saying that you are concerned for John's dignity!


Of course I am.  I am concerned each individual's dignity.  Arent you?

I dont think anyone should be fired because they did there job poorly in the past.  The real question is "are the able and willing and have the right conditions to do it well in the future?"  If not, is it because they are unable? or unwilling?  then perhaps firing is correct.  If its because of conditions, then perhaps not.

If Archbishop Nienstedt resigned, it would be his own decision, arrived at in a good discernment, presumably. Other bishops have served with honor in parishes and in teaching roles in dioceses. The man may continue as a priest in good standing, and perhaps there should be a place for him to serve the Gospel, to rebuild trust and credibility as an individual and as a member of the college of bishops. That seems fair. But would he and other bishops find that acceptable? 

Unless he is found to have committed crimes. In which case, what to do with a convicted criminal?

Let me express my appreciation to Grant for some good journalism.

It's not difficult to see the potential conflict of interest when a diocese's authorities audit themselves.  I suppose we give Archbishop Nienstedt some credit for assigning responsibility to a different bishop (albeit one who, in some way, shape or form, is responsible to Nienstedt), and for bringing in an outside firm to conduct the audit.  

There has been some discussion above of attorney-client privilege.  Do we subtract some credit from Archbishop Nienstedt for assigning the audit to a firm that would be bound by attorney-client privilege?  Is it possible to hire a law firm to do something (like conduct an audit) that isn't properly considered legal work, in which case attorney-client privilege wouldn't be present?  But I suppose that the archdiocese would insist on non-disclosure from *any* outside firm brought in to conduct the audit, whether or not it's a law firm.  Ultimately, the archdiocese, responsible to Nienstedt, "owns" the results of the audit and will be in control of what is communicated and how it's communicated.

If this were a US government executive-branch scandal rather than a diocesan scandal, the federal government's checks and balances would come into play: Congress could hold hearings, subpoena documents and potentially appoint an independent counsel.  But church governance lacks those particular checks and balances.  

If we ask the question, "If it's not appropriate for the archdioceses to self-audit, then for whom is it appropriate?", right now there isn't a ready answer.  It seems to me that the possibility of a conflict of interest would be considerably lessened if the USCCB had a mechanism for auditing a bishop.  In other words, instead of having a St. Paul/Minneapolis auxiliary conduct the audit, bring in a bishop from some other diocese.  There is precedent for the USCCB to audit dioceses, as this already happens to ensure compliance with the Dallas charter and norms.  But as far as I know, there is no mechanism in place for the USCCB to audit a bishop who is accused of behavior that falls outside of the provisions of the child-safety charter and norms.  Presumably, the USCCB  could establish these mechanisms.  Would it?

The Holy See also could audit a diocesan bishop.  I don't know what specific mechanisms are in place for this to happen, but certainly Rome has investigated bishops in the past, so it wouldn't be starting from scratch.  Would a Roman audit be preferable to a national conference audit?  Under Francis' papacy, I would have some trust.  

It would be tempting for some folks to respond, "What about the people of the archdiocese?"  But there is no formal structure or mechanism for this to occur.


@ JOL: "Best bishops"???  Really?  "Utterly groundless allegations"??? Really?

I don't "believe that ALL bishops and priests" are personally corrupt.  But they are ALL very successful politicians in the world's oldest all-male feudal oligarchy that is rotten and corrupt to the core.

I'm not interested in "calling for clerical heads" because that would only replace them with other clerical heads, equally corrupt.  

The only way out of the mess that "ALL bishops and priests" have brought us to is:




I don't know that I have a problem with attorney-client priviledge aspects of the "audit" or whatever you want to call it.  I think that is pretty standard practice with any of these things.  You don't, after all, want your outside counsel/auditor or whatever going public with some report or finding before he tells you about it.  That's fairly standard procedure now adays I think. My view is that the Archbishop's credibility is already in shambles and I wouldn't believe him if he told me the grass was green without checking it out myself.  When that's the case, it is time to go. 

In today's NYTimes, a similar article. 

In today's NYTimes, a similar article. 

I appologize for the double post. I received a reprimand from Commonweal's Comment bot, questioning my dignity, stating that I must be a human not a Spamer or something to that effect, in white letters on red background. Very intimidating. It also said that if I was a human person I could resubmit the post. I did as instructed and saw two entries. That was the very first time my dignity has been questioned by a machine. A brave new world this internet is. 

Philip - many uf us have been similarly reprimanded.  It's practically a badge of honor. 


To be honest, if I were to meet a random bishop, I would it consider it more likely than not that he had acted negligently with respect to protecting children from sexual abuse. Even after 2002, we still uncover bishops failing to act correctly.

Even if it were a much smaller percentage like 10%, I wouldn't trust any system that relies on the bishop doing the right thing. That 10% could still put a lot of children at risk.

That was the very first time my dignity has been questioned by a machine.

Never had a colonoscopy then, I guess.

Hey, Bruce - yep, saw that line and it referred to her first position with the archdiocese.  She then went to Fargo diocese for a number of years and was then hired back as chancellor.  You, again, are trying to be slick and obfuscate the facts.

She also explained her thought - rather forthright and why she did not act on that thought.  Guess you never worked for the church and were confronted with these types of ethical lapses -  happens all too often in church work.

JOL - your tiresome comparison and mantra about the Irish bishops is way off base.

First, your Irish opinion is just that - an opinion that not many in Ireland, the world, etc. share.

Second, to your point, this affadavit provides more details than ever surfaced about any Irish bishop - to compare simplistically and then conclude that a witch hunt has started is irresponsible (but typical for you).

Third - is this a witch hunt or reasonable, responsible folks who are seeing more and more facts (not subversion, not archdiocesan dodges, propoganda, etc.)

Fourth - Nienstedt is merely the third successive bishop who has failed to protect children in the archdiocese?  What is your solution beyond the constant (father/bishop, etc. have to be given the benefit of the doubt...geez, appears that that has been a 30 year pattern)

What is truly surprising is that the local district attorney still will not set up an investigation?  What goes?

Bruce, I guess I am not concerned about Nienstedt's dignity because I consider his actions to be so incredibly vile and him to be incredibly arrogant about it. This sort of action doesn't warrant a "second chance" as you suggest. How was the same abuse handled at Penn State? How was Joe Paterno's dignity and legacy handled? The same thing needs to happen to Nienstedt, Mahoney, Flynn, Finn and the list goes on.

Bill, it isn't surprising that the DA won't set up to an investigation to me because he's probably been paid off. This Archdiocese has a big wallet and so it goes.

We must note that we see in today's NY Times that Laurie Goodstein et al gave credit to Commonweal for uncovering the latest about Nienstadt. Shows that the Catholic conscience is much more aware than it was in 2002. . 

JOL, Yes, run to the media as the reason that the priests raped children and why the bishops continued to cover it up. Poor poor priests and bishops as victims!! Even the Irish Government closed their embassy to the Vatican because the abuse got so bad: Your rabid defense of the bishops makes me realize that you, like them, think it is ok to rape children and cover it up rather than make those who are accountable step down or go to prison. Alll of this could have prevented by turning priests in to the police which is something the church refuses to do.

Theodore Anderson, if you care to stand over your allegation in regard to one of Ireland's finest bishops, Donal Murray, please be informed that the allegations have long been quashed. You exercises in sneering irony are not a good substitute for calm and considered examination of the facts. In point of fact, no Irish bishop has ever thought that "it is ok to rape children" as you "rabidly" allege. Is this your idea of rational debate?

The DA has been paid off by the archdiocese? This sort of conspiracy theory is widely bruited by SNAP, but surely if the crimes of clergy and bishops were as egregious and evident as SNAP imagines, the police would have handled the criminals just as they handle lay offenders. The US is not some sort of Catholic theocracy as far as I know.

"Bruce, I guess I AM NOT CONCERNED ABOUT Nienstedt's DIGNITY because I consider his actions (UNSPECIFIED) to be so incredibly vile (UNPROVEN) and him to be incredibly arrogant about it (PRESUMABLY IN THAT HE IS DENYING THE ALLEGATIONS THAT HE HAS ASKED TO HAVE INVESTIGATE?)

" How was the same abuse (NOT THE SAME, AND PROVEN IN THAT CASE, NOT MERELY ALLEGED) handled at Penn State? How was Joe Paterno's dignity and legacy handled? (HE WAS GIVEN THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY) The same thing needs to happen to Nienstedt, Mahoney, Flynn, Finn and the list goes on."

Sorry, but this is the language of a lynch-mob.

Jim Jenkins you have no interest whatever in studying the facts about Irish bishops. You might have a look at this for starters:

The caps aren't really impressive.

I think most of us laypeople just want honesty and transpency. The legal hardline has cost us more than direct and sincere apologies would have accomplished.

It is galling, I am sure, for a prelate to go, hat in hand, and say "I'm sorry." But this kind of sacrifice is required. When omitted, and when offenses continue, people get angry.

There are serious questions about Archbishop Nienstedt's honesty. I hope he realizes this, and addresses them in a moral spirit.

I just had a couple of comments. First, I am not sure about all of the people that are defending Nienstedt. If he truly did this, then what is to defend? To defend him is to defend his actions.Second, I have concluded that all of this abuse and cover-ups across the nation and world is on purpose. The church couldn't possibly have that many priests that have raped so many children and then go to the length it does to protect them by accident. Logic tells me it is on purpose and we are seeing them fight to keep this practice. If I am wrong, then you would have seen priests being fired and handed over to the police in droves.

"facts about Irish bishops" - Now there is a really provocative idea!

While they certainly need no help from me because the Irish people have long since delivered a stinging verdict and a damning judgement of Irish hierarchs:  In overwhelming numbers the Irish people have voted with their feet.  These days, hardly any more Irish sheeple left in the pews.  

And, the hierarchs certainly have no one to blame but themselves.

Maybe JOL if you feel so pained for your brother Irish priests and bishops, you should go home to join them in the clerical cortege along to the dung heap of history.  Perhaps, you could whistle pass the graveyard for them?


Jim Jenkins, there has been a decline in church attendance in Ireland beginning long before the sex abuse scandals, and the idea that it correlates with righteous anger against the bishops accused of negligence on that front would be pretty hard to substantiate. There has been an equal decline in US Catholic membership. Lots of people are delighted at this weakening of a church that they see as a "cult". You seem to believe in the Church as the people of God ("Let the people decide") so you should not celebrate this crisis. To say that the Irish clergy are headed for the dung heap of history can easily be universalized to all clergy, as I think you do elsewhere. But the next step is to say that all Catholics and the Church as such are headed for that dung hill. What have you got to replace them? 

My point was only that Bp Donal Murray is an excellent man, priest, and theologian, and that having his head on a platter has in no way strengthened or improved the Irish church. 

Meanwhile another bout of witch-huntery seems to be in the offing:

This article is dripping and drooling with pharisaic contempt --

The trouble with Damon Linker is that he believes the doctrine of the Holiness of the Church must entail that Catholics are sexless and sinless, otherwise they must be hypocrites (and yes, he does tend to equate sex and sin); a fortiori ministers of the Gospel who do not meet a rigorist interpretation of official doctrines are to be given no leeway as ordinary, human, fallible, sexual mortals. Linker seems thrilled that the internet can expose everyone's dirty linen in public at the click of a button -- this of course includes his own. At the moment church-basher believe themselves to be beyond the reach of scandal, since they regard as peccadillos for themselves the very actions that they denounce as brazen hypocrisy in others -- but the boot can easily suddenly be on the other foot, as we see in the embarrassments inflicted on a very prominent Catholic columnist who sailed under the banner of gay marriage while sniffing at alleged clerical corruption, inviting accusations of hypocrisy when the gap between his wild sexual behavior and his public image came to light. There was wisdom in the old proverb, "people in glass houses cannot throw stones". The internet may make the whole world a village where everyone knows everything about everyone else. In the past villagers were well able to handle these "scandals" and we may have to relearn their wisdom anew.


Yes, ordinary, non-ministerial folks may turn out to be egregious sinners and, if they have basked in a reputation for virtue, hypocrites. But they usually do not claim divine authority to rebuke others for their derelictions and lay down infallible rules for others to follow.

I would find no fault and much good in a bishop who said to his flock, "I too am a sinful man. But let us try to help each other out of the muck, pray God for mercy and strength, and look together for better ways."

@ Joseph SOL [You should really rethink using the "SOL" moniker - communicates something you don't want people to understand about you]:  I respond reluctantly because I know that any attention only encourages you.  However, hierarchs like you only became aware of the "sex abuse scandals" relatively recently - really just since the late '90s and early 2000s.

I wouldn't try to ascribe any causal relationship, but I do believe one of the contributing factors to the "righteous anger against bishops" was the growing consciousness over decades in the 20th century among the people of the church - many priests and religious as well - that there was something rotten at the core, fundamentally wrong with the Catholic hierarchy and priesthood.

For most of us sheeple, JSOL the disallusionment with the hierarchy and its repressive and reactionary ideology began really with Humane Vitae when the celibates sought to extend a political hegemony over the sexual behavior for everyone except themselves, of course.  

As we sheeple have only recently learned, when hierarchs and priests have sex - with women or with men, or with children - there is nothing disqualifying or exclusionary about it.  In fact, their brother priests just "absolve" them of their sins, and all is returned to right in the kingdom of the celibate clerics.  [Just ask Cardinals Law, McCarrick, Mahony, O'Brien ...]

But for us sheeple, we are shamed for our sexuality, condemned to live in "the state of mortal sin," denied a sacramental life, and driven from the faith community of our birth.  

You worried about the "dung heap of history," Joe?  As Yoda once said:  "Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future."

If Catholics do not find the will to reform and renew the priesthood from parish to pope, I seriously doubt the Catholic Church as it is now composed and structured will even survive this century.  

First on the agenda, Catholics must find a way to SEPARATE the MONEY from the MINISTRY.

In all things if the church is to even survive, LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!


PS:  JSOL, for your edification, Yoda also said:  "The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side."

Jim Jenkins, I do not understand your message at all -- what do you mean by SOL, what do you mean by dubbing me a "hierarch" -- like most priests I have never preached in favor of Humanae Vitae or urged it on anyone in the confessional or elsewhere -- you seem to be involved in a shadow fight with straw men. Is it not clear that thinking about sex has advanced pari passu among both clergy and laity, especially since Humanae Vitae, 1968? Your fanatical anticlericalism blinds you to the sheer ordinariness of the clergy, who ask the same questions as the laity.


John Prior, "ordinary, non-ministerial folks may turn out to be egregious sinners and, if they have basked in a reputation for virtue, hypocrites. But they usually do not claim divine authority to rebuke others for their derelictions and lay down infallible rules for others to follow." This is also a false stereotype. I do not know ANY priests who "rebuke other for their derelictions" and "lay down infallible rules" -- and as far as I know moral theologians are blue in the face trying to tell people that church sexual rules are non-infallible and hortatory rather than dogmatic in nature.


"I would find no fault and much good in a bishop who said to his flock, "I too am a sinful man. But let us try to help each other out of the muck, pray God for mercy and strength, and look together for better ways."" There are lots of bishops who talk like that, and it cuts no ice with SNAP etc.

non-infallible and hortatory

Good one, JOL.

Yes, those church sexual rules are really just friendly suggestions, because, you know, we love you. We're not 100% sure that we have everything just right, so we want to leave open the possibility of amendment in the future. In the meantime, however, if you stray in the slightest way from what we are teaching today, you may find yourself burning eternally in hellfire. You have been exhorted. Have a nice day!

"hortatory" is a work used by the Jesuit moral theologian Juan Masia, and non-infallible is what pretty much all moral theologians say about such teaching as the proscriptions on contraceptive or same-sex acts. As to hell, it is used in the New Testament, and is interpreted by Karl Rahner as "the possibility of final loss" -- again a hortatory appeal to conscience. In fact I have never heard a priest even mention hell since about 1963. I suspect that many of those shrieking about the inhumanity of church teaching have not listened to a sermon for decades, or else that American priests are wildly different from those I have known in France, Ireland, Japan and elsewhere, given to lambasting sexual sinners and warning them about hell.

Paul VI was one who insisted heavily on the authority of the Magisterium in determining objective morality, but he was also the patron of the pastoral liberalism I am noting. Benedict XVI, though not a moral theologian unlike Paul VI, was a stickler for magisterial authority but again a softie on the pastoral front.

Is drunken driving an offense covered by Mandatory Reporting, and if not, why not?

This report again gives the impression that the outstanding offense of the bishop was that he did not remove from ministry a priest who "propositioned" an adult. If this standard were applied universally, no man who showed sexual interest in anyone could be trusted in any job that brought him into contact with minors.

Five women theologians have written what looks like a libelous letter calling of Nienstedt's resignation, which is saluted uncritically by group thinkers.

More frenzy from the Neinstedt-Hasselberger brigade (sic)

Fr. O'Leary: Time to refresh your memory on Wehmeyer. He did more than proposition an adult. And then, knowing all that, Nienstedt promoted him to pastor, and even though his review board urged him to notify the parish staff of Wehmeyer's history of sexual acting out, he did not. Wehmeyer molested the children of one of the parish employees. 

Do you care at all about the facts of the cases you opine on?

We know that Wehmeyer was molesting minors but the whole point is that Hasenberger has not proved that the authorities were aware of this.

I certainly do not underestimate the evil of child abuse -- but I think the frenzy about Ratigan and about such minor allegations as that against Nienstedt (the confirmation incident, alleged) earlier shows that people base their reactions on a yuck-factor associated with sex and with the accursèd raced of pedophiles, rather than on morality.

Thus when I asked why drunken driving should not also be a cause for defrocking clerics, and for mandatory reporting, and for raking up offenses from thirty years ago, the reaction was that there is no comparison -- though this crime kills thousands upon thousands... The reason is that many people know they have been guilty of that crime and also that they have close friends or relatives whom they would not like to be obliged to denounce for that crime.

"In the case of one priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, Haselberger revealed that for nearly a decade the archdiocese had been aware of his troubling sexual proclivities but failed to warn his parishioners--and promoted him to pastor of a parish where he eventually abused children."

The "troubling sexual proclivities" did NOT include any manifest interest in minors.

The point is that the poor judgment of the diocesan authorities does not amount to a legally prosecutable crime since there is no evidence of conscious endangerment of minors.


That's your point? Rather obvious, no? My question is what was Wehmeyer doing in the priesthood and why was he promoted to pastor? (You made it sound like he had just propositioned a man one time. In fact there was a pattern of behavior stretching back years--a pattern the archdiocese was aware of.) There remains the question of when the archdiocese became aware of the sexual abuse allegations against Wehmeyer, which Ramsey County is still investigating. 

Yes, that is my point, and it is indeed rather obvious, as I will take note that you now unambiguously admit.  There are lots of "promiscuous" but not necessarily "abusive" gay men in the priesthood, and if you make it a legal offense for bishops to have accepted them or permitted them to continue in the priesthood you are really bringing in a revolutionary change in American law. 


"Admit"? What are you talking about? You didn't just win something from me. You incompletely described Wehmeyer's past in a way that minimized what the archdiocese knew about his behavior. I corrected you, as I often must, because your grasp of the facts is weak, as is too often the case. We are not talking about promiscuity. We are talking about a man who had serious sexual issues (and possibly a drinking problem). He should not have been promoted. That he was--by the past two archbishops of St. Paul and Minneapolis--is rather puzzling, wouldn't you say?

A man who had "serious sexual issues" is still pretty vague -- such "issues" do not necessarily spell endangerment of children, which is what those who depict Nienstedt as a criminal want to prove. When you add "and possibly a drinking problem" you further weaken their case. Many a priest has drinking problems -- the tradition expression for that is "Many a good man's fault".

Why do you mention a drinking problem? Were the "sexual issues" perhaps connected with Fr Wehmeyer's behavior when under the influence of alcohol? As if no man ever behaved "inappropriately" when under the influence! But if his behavior, as far as was known, was with adults, this would still not be the smoking gun Anderson, Haselberger, William Linsdsay, et al. are so anxious to find or so certain they have found. 

"He should not have been promoted" -- I agree -- a bad move -- but this is still not the manifest criminality folk want to pin on the harried and hunted Niensdorf.



A man who had "serious sexual issues" is still pretty vague -- such "issues" do not necessarily spell endangerment of children, which is what those who depict Nienstedt as a criminal want to prove. When you add "and possibly a drinking problem" you further weaken their case. Many a priest has drinking problems -- the traditional expression for that is "Many a good man's fault".

Why do you mention a drinking problem? Were the "sexual issues" perhaps connected with Fr Wehmeyer's behavior when under the influence of alcohol? As if no man ever behaved "inappropriately" when under the influence! But if his behavior, as far as was known, was with adults, this would still not be the smoking gun Anderson, Haselberger, William Lindsay, et al. are so anxious to find or so certain they have found. 

"He should not have been promoted" -- I agree -- a bad move -- but this is still not the manifest criminality folk want to pin on the harried and hunted Nienstedt.

So the situation is, then, that while there are grave questions about Nienstedt's pastoral wisdom in handling a priest who had sexual issues, there is no evidence that he criminally endangered children. You do agree on this, don't you?

Fr. O'Leary: I was summarizing Wehmeyer's troubling history of bad behavior. If you had bothered to read the whole piece I linked to, you'd know that the archdiocese was aware of that history in quite a bit of detail. (Yet again, you are apparently too busy to actually read up on the cases you opine on here. You're an academic. Do your homework.) Now we know that those issues did spell endangerment of children. They also spelled endangerment of adults--scandal. I mention the drinking problem not to strengthen or weaken anyone else's case, but as more proof that he should not have been given a parish, and probably should not have been in active ministry. Read this

"But if his behavior, as far as was known, was with adults, this would still not be the smoking gun Anderson, Haselberger, William Lindsay, et al. are so anxious to find or so certain they have found." You don't know who's anxious about what. You've tipped your hand. 

"While there are grave questions about Nienstedt's pastoral wisdom in handling a priest who had sexual issues, there is no evidence that he criminally endangered children. You do agree on this, don't you?"

Nienstedt is not charged with a crime. (The lawsuit is civil, not criminal, and claims the archdiocese created a public nuisance by failing to remove dangerous priests from ministry.) He may be charged with a misdemeanor, if Ramsey County prosecutors decide that they have evidence that the archdiocese delayed in reporting allegations of sexual abuse against Wehmeyer. 

"NOW we know that those issued did spell endangerment of children," -- yes, but not THEN.


To be on the safe side, bishops will have to suspend any priest found to be sexually active.

And any priest found to be drunk would have to be suspended -- for three reasons: (1) scandal; (2) danger to others if he drives; (3) danger that he would make suspicious remarks, such as inviting young adults or even minors to part with him.

Have you bothered to become informed about the facts of this case? Are you this lazy in your academic research? This is the person whose pre-abuse ministry you're defending:

Wehmeyer wasn't found to be sexually active. He was found to have asked young men in a public place whether they were "fucking horny right now." The archdiocese sent him to treatment after that incident, and when he returned he was supposed to attend Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. That was 2004.

In 2006, a police officer found Wehmeyer in a popular gay cruising spot in the middle of the afternoon. "The only thing he said was, 'I'm a priest. I know I shouldn't be here,'" the cop reported. Wehmeyer left, but circled back to the area. Twice. When the police officer went to the vicar general, he was informed that Wehmeyer had had a problem propositioning men before, and that the archdiocese would launch a very serious intervention. That year he was made parochial administrator of the parish where he would go on to abuse the children of a staff member.

In 2008, when Nienstedt took over, Wehmeyer began lobbying to be made pastor (wonder why?). The archdiocese continued to receive complaints about the priest. In 2009 another priest called to say that Wehmeyer had propositioned him. Another person reported that Wehmeyer was seen bothering kids at a camp site. The vicar general's notes indicate that he spoke with the mother of those children and told her than she needed to help Wehmeyer observe proper boundaries. That woman, Haselberger says, is the mother of the boys Wehmeyer molested.

Later in 2009 he drove drunk to a gas station and tried picking up some teenagers. When a police officer arrived, he begged not to be arrested because he was a priest and people depended on him (actually, amazingly, as he serves his jail sentence he remains a priest).

We're not talking about a man who had a consensual, private sexual relationship with a grownup. We're talking about someone who had no business running a parish, let alone being in ministry, because he did not have control of his sexual urges. Someone who repeatedly came on to young people in public--some adults, and apparently some not.

Defend that, Fr. O'Leary. 

I don't need to defend Fr Wehmeyer's sexual life, merely to note that his sexuality seemed directed at adults, and in a rather blatant way. I know of many priests who have sometimes hung out in gay cruising spots, and who still manage to function pastorally, and I suggest that if this is where SNAP's agenda is now moving (in the absence of any substantial new crop of cases of child abuse) we are crossing a threshold to a wonderful anti-gay witchhunt. Well it might be nice if the Vatican, instead of issuing ritual edicts banning gays from seminaries just adopted the policy of accepting or agreeing to turn a blind eye to "consensual, private sexual relationship wiht a grownup", but the actual texture of gay social life is a bit more complex than this neat formula suggests. Certainly bishops are relieved when gay priests suppress public manifestations of their sexuality, and settle down to a discreet, mature friendship, but don't forget that this can be quite oppressive for the boyfriend, who in any case nowadays will want to celebrate a public marriage.Is it a fact that the only minors Wehmeyer molested were the two whose mother you mention? 

The most persistent of SNAP's grievances is that Bishop Finn, convicted of a misdemeanor in not immediately reporting Fr Ratigan, sentenced to 50 years for taking lewd pics of little girls, has not been suspended by Pope Francis. But it could be that the reason Francis will not not suspend Finn is that Francis is the kind of person who asks "What Would Jesus Do?" and who thinks of mercy. Would Francis himself have inhumanly ignored Ratigan's desperate cry, "Do not throw me to the wolves" and his suicide attempt? To suspend Finn would mean to approve the vicious and disproportionate sentence on Ratigan that Finn may have foreseen (in a State that is not among the enlightened ones). SNAP supporters are gloating over that sentence and its reaffirmation on appeal in a Kansas court. But what kind of message are they sending? If one's own son or brother or father came to you in desperation and said "I took lewd pics of young girls -- I know I am a creep -- but the mob are after me -- they will want me to rot in jail for life -- for God sake, help me -- " would one unflinchingly, without the least hesitation, immediately call the cops? Would Jesus? He did shield the adulteress -- and was crucified for that sort of humanity.

You know many priests who hang out in parks known to be gay-cruising spots? Wehmeyer knew he shouldn't have been there. He told the police officer he knew he shouldn't have been there. Why don't you know he shouldn't have been there?

The reason Wehmeyer should never have been a priest isn't because he's attracted to men, it's because he's attracted to children. But even if you want to convince yourself the archdiocese had no reason to take him out of ministry before it learned that he was accused of molesting kids, any priest who acts out sexually in the way Wehmeyer did is a problem. Publicly propositioning people. Giving teenagers a hard time at a gas station--such that a police officer was called. The man was sent to treatment for his sexual impulse-control issues. He was told to attend Sexaholic Anonymous meetings. People with sex addictions shouldn't sign up for celibacy.

Wehmeyer admitted to molesting two brothers, aged 12 and 14. He also admitted to possessing child pornography. It's not known whether he had other victims.

Why do you ask?

And why do you change the subject to Finn? You don't like Ratigan's sentence. I don't either. That doesn't change the fact that Finn broke the law by failing to report him. The man admitted to having child pornography. Call it that. Don't euphemize it as "lewd pics." Name it. Stop minimizing. And stop dramatizing. Ratigan tried to kill himself and failed. Yes, suicide is always a tragedy, and yes Jesus doesn't want any of us to throw anyone away. That doesn't mean Jesus wants us to let child pornographers go on plying their trade. Justice is not only about the good of the victim. It is also about the good of the criminal. Do you really not know that?

"To suspend Finn would mean to approve the vicious and disproportionate sentence on Ratigan that Finn may have foreseen." You are deeply confused. Large swaths of Finn's diocese no longer trust him to make the right decisions about problem priests. They want him taken out of the diocese because they want to be able to trust their bishop again. Replacing him would mean to disapprove of his failure to protect children.

You just equated adultery with child abuse. That's not an act of humanity. It's something very far from that.

Wehmeyer is not "attracted to children," -- only one allegation of molesting minors is on record as opposed to multiple improprieties with adults.


"And why do you change the subject to Finn?" Not changing, just adding, because colcoch at her website raised him in connection with Nienstedt.

"You don't like Ratigan's sentence. I don't either."

Well we agree on something, then.

"That doesn't change the fact that Finn broke the law by failing to report him."

The law is the law is the law. But remember that Jesus also broke the law.

"The man admitted to having child pornography. Call it that. Don't euphemize it as "lewd

”That doesn't mean Jesus wants us to let child pornographers go on plying their trade.”

As far as I know the only "child porn" that he created were the lewd pics taking for his personal reasons.

"You just equated adultery with child abuse." Adultery was regarded with horror in Jesus' time, though not today; Jesus would no doubt shield the pedophile today as he shielded the adulteress then.

Wehmeyer is not attracted to children, you say? That's strange, because he admitted to sexually molesting two of them and to seventeen counts of possessing child pornography. Do you remember the purpose of pornography? It's for sexual gratification, in case you forgot. 

As far as you know "the only 'child porn' that [Ratigan] created were the lewd pics taking for his personal reasons"? You don't know much then. Actually, Fr. O'Leary, you repeeatedly show yourself to be either ignorant or too lazy to read up on the cases you're so sure prove just how Puritannical American culture is. The diocese found hundreds of pornographic images on his computer, including a series focusing on a young girl's crotch. She was wearing just a diaper, and over the course of several photos the diaper was gradually moved to expose her genitals. It isn't known whether he created those images. But possessing them is itself a crime. So as far as I know, you don't know enough about this case, or really most others, to offer an assessment. You are ignorant and unwilling to learn basic facts.

And now you claim Jesus would shield pedophiles. I suppose that was inevitable. Maybe you ought to propose it as the fifteenth Station of the Cross.

Jesus protected an adulteress from a raging mob and said "neither do I condemn thee" -- has this no application to the rage against those categorized as pedophiles?


Remember when exactly the same rage was directed against gays? Do you think Jesus was on the mob's side then and has changed only because our pc attitudes have changed?


You confirm that Wehmeyer is convicted of only one crme against minors as opposed to his long history with adults; the porn is another dimension to be sure, but it is not clear even there that he was primarily into child porn. In any case the archiocese immediately reported Weymere to the police as soon as they were informed of these criminal actions and cooperated fully with the police investigation, instantly suspending Wehmeyer. None of his known previous actions were criminal. 


The 50 years sentence for creating porn against Ratigan was based on his pics of little girls in his private camera -- the very phrasing of the sentence is thus misleading.



I am not talking about the rage directed at pedophiles. I am talking about prosecuting those who sexually abuse children. Desiring justice for their victims is not a politically correct attitude. 

"You confirm that Wehmeyer is convicted of only one crime against minors as opposed to his long history with adults." He admitted to a total of twenty counts related to child sexual abuse and child pornography. Do you think that's not such a big deal? How many acts of child sexual abuse would it take before you considered a perpetrator to pose a serious threat to the common good?

"In any case the archiocese immediately reported Weymere to the police as soon as they were informed of these criminal actions and cooperated fully with the police investigation, instantly suspending Wehmeyer. None of his known previous actions were criminal." Once again, your laziness impresses.

Let's look at the record: Minnesota law requires mandated reporters (which includes priests) to report suspected child abuse to civil authorities within twenty-four hours of learning of the suspected abuse. The e-mail record shows the archdiocese reported the allegations agaist Wehmeyer on June 20, 2012. But a decree signed by Nienstedt says: "On June 18, 2012, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis received a complaint that Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer...supplied alcohol and sexually explicit images to a minor, and fondled or attempted to fondle the minor's genitals."

The illegal child-porn photos possessed or created by Ratigan were found on his computer, not his personal camera. Do you read up on any of this or are you so confident in your analytical powers that you find facts extraneous to your larger life lessons?

Of course Wehmeyer posed a threat to the common good, and I never denied this. The issue I insisted on is the credibility of Nienstedt's claim not to have known this. As soon as the allegations about minors came to light he moved swiftly. Or is the issue now that he did not move quickly enough -- taking two days instead of one?

What I mean by camera is that Ratigan took the shots with his personal camera -- a moblile phone?-- transferring the pics to his computer. It is silly to imagine that I do not know that. I think you show bias in pouncing on any imagined inaccuracy you find in my posts while turning a blind eye to the egregious inaccuracies in those of Bill de Haas for example.


You are not a victim here. I'm criticizing you because I have been upbraiding you about your disregard for the facts of the cases on which you pronounce for years. I have not imagined your mistakes. You keep making them. Your errors are egregious and sloppy, possibly willful, and your opinions about the scandal are worse. (Yes, delaying reporting an abuse allegation is dangerous because it could allow an abuser more time to victimize children. Do you find that hard to comprehend? You shouldn't.)

It is an embarrassment and a scandal that you, a priest, argue that Jesus would shield child molestors from the law. 

I have not made these topics my chief object of research and am happy to be corrected, though I think I have made fewer factual errors than de Haas. What you object to is my opinions, and perhaps like Jim Jenkins you would ike to call in the Thought Police, Sorry, Grant, but I continue to hold the opinion that you have produced no evidence that Nienstedt is guilty of any crime, despite years of crusading against him. Now you make an issue of whether he reported the allegation in 24 or 36 hours -- sounds like scraping the bottom of the barrel in a search for the smoking gun. As to Jesus he did not make an idol of the law and brokie it when it on many occasions, including shielding a woman from a law he considered unjust. Sorry but that is the sort of scandalous Founder our religion has saddled us with. 





You're apologizing for the wrong things. You haven't made "these topics" a subject of so much as a Google News search, as far as I can tell. You don't need a degree in the abuse scandal in order to learn the facts you want to opine about. What I object to is your confident declaration of this or that non-fact, which you do base your opinions on. That's one of the reasons your opinions about this matter are so often wrong. I'm not trying to convict anyone of anything (well, except perhaps you--of spending more time learning about the subjects you address in a public forum). I just thinks the facts matter. I haven't made mandatory reporting an issue. All U.S. states and territories have. If the law looked like an idol to me I'd be all for smashing it. But you can't hide behind Jesus here, Fr. O'Leary. These laws exist in order to protect children from predators. Sorry you don't see that.

"I'm not trying to convict anyone of anything". Really? I thought you were up there with Anderson and Haselberger in the assault on Nienstedt.


That you would equate those two only further demonstrates your abiding ignorance. 

Why do you object to being placed alongside Anderson and Haselberger? Are you distancing yourself from Anderson? I ask in ignorance.

You're changing the subject again. Find someone else to dance to your tune.

It was you, Grant, who accused me of ignorance for saying I thought you were up there with Anderson and Haselberger in the assault on Nienstedt. You mysteriously claim that I "equate" the latter, and refuse to answer my bona fide question why. Indeed it seems that even to ask you for a question of simple information is to be seen as manipulative and to want you to "dance to my tune".

Yes, I have been telling you to do your homework for years now. Apparently to no effect. I know that your grasp of the facts of the cases you pronounce on is weak, and that when others point that out you tend to change the subject, usually to something of a personal nature. That is, usually you cast yourself as a victim of this or that unfairness. You tried that already, when you complained that I wasn't correcting someone else. It didn't work, so now you want to talk about me. That won't work either. 

Let us know when you've finished carving the fifteenth Station of the Cross, "Jesus Shielded the Sexual Abuser."

I never, ever cast myself as a victim or descended to personal remarks; I am not talking about "you", merely pointing out that you introduced an issue on which I am allegedly ignorant and then refused to enlighten my ignorance. I am commenting on the debate going on here and not on you personally. 

I see that Nienstedt is one who does not avoid even the most embarrassing personal questions -- and gives cool answers -- I found this quite impressive:

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