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Archbishop accused of abuse, takes leave of absence
Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minnesota has been accused of inappropriate sexual touching.
December 17th, 2013
02:27 PM ET

Archbishop accused of abuse, takes leave of absence

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) The Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been accused of inappropriately touching a boy and will take a voluntary leave of absence during an investigation of the incident, the archdiocese announced on Tuesday.

Archbishop John Nienstedt learned this weekend that a young man says the Catholic leader "inappropriately touched his buttocks" during a public photo session after a church ceremony, the archdiocese said. The accuser, who is a male minor, says the incident happened in 2009, according to the archdiocese.

"I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me," Niendstedt said in a statement posted on the website of his archdiocese.

"I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false. I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with whom I disagree."

Nienstedt continued, "my sins do not include any kind of abuse of minors. I have met victims and I know the lasting damage that such abuse causes."

"I hope that the investigations can be thorough but quick," the archbishop added. "I already long to be back in public ministry—to be able to serve as the Lord has called me to serve."

Nienstedt's decision to take a temporary leave of absence was made after consulting with the Pope's U.S. ambassador, the archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday. Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché will take over Nienstedt's public duties during the archbishop's absence.

The Catholic reform group Voice of the Faithful welcomed Nienstedt's announcement. "This action demonstrates that no one in the Church, whether bishop or employee, should be protected from the consequences of such allegations," the group said in a statement.

But Voice of the Faithful and other Catholic reform groups have insisted that Nienstedt should resign permanently for another reason: failing to abide by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' sexual abuse guidelines.

The archdiocese has denied any wrongdoing but pledged on December 5 to revamp the way it handles abuse cases and discloses credible accusations against clergy to the public.

Earlier this month, under a court order, the archdiocese released the names of 30 priests it believes sexually abused children since 1950. Police in St. Paul have asked victims of clergy sexual abuse to come forward.

On Sunday, the archbishop spoke at a church in Edina, Minnesota, and apologized for aspects of the sexual abuse scandal that have roiled his diocese in recent months.

“When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of and I didn’t have to worry about it,” Niensted told reporters, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Unfortunately I believed that. … And so my biggest apology today is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. When the story started to break at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.”

Nienstedt has been a vocal advocate against same-sex marriage, putting him at odds with more liberal Catholics in Minnesota. The state legalized gay marriage in August.

"I have taken strong stands on the moral teachings of the Church and been criticized for it," the archbishop said on Tuesday. "I would not have done so if I did not believe those teachings and was personally bound to living up to them in practice."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Sex abuse

soundoff (243 Responses)
  1. christiansteve

    Donkey puncher is hip

    January 3, 2014 at 10:32 am |
  2. 00 00

    SAM BO THE SNAKE INAPPROPRIATELY THRETTENS AND ACCUSES CHRISTIANS, ENCOURAGING THEM TO USE A 12 GAUGE SHOTGUN TO BLOW THEIR BRAINS OUT AND NOT ONE DEVIL CONDEMNS HER

    THEIR DAY OF RECKONING IS COMING. GOD IS NEVER THE FINAL RECIPIENT OF MOCKERY

    HIDE AND WATCH

    January 3, 2014 at 2:40 am |
  3. Keith

    I am hopeful that all this will be taken care of in the next few years. I have great faith in the new Pope Francis, I believe he can deal with the problems.

    January 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
  4. Jesse

    I think, we should allow these priests to get married,If they wont change the this law, I think, it will get worst and these innocents boys will pay the price. If these priests will not get right holes then they will bang in wrong holes

    December 31, 2013 at 1:29 am |
  5. JDD

    Significantly, he has stepped aside from active ministry, completely in accordance with the policies of the Archdiocese.

    Name one other leader of any organization who would immediately step aside at the first hint – any hint – of an accusation against him personally, by someone from years ago, supposedly taking place at a public event during a photo session with cameras everywhere.

    December 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  6. Allegedly Good

    Another criminal in the criminal catholic church.

    December 25, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • JDD

      Please bring your evidence forward. It would be good to close this case.

      Of course, you are interested in the right verdict, whatever that may be, correct?

      December 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • 00 00

      I LOVE OBSERVER!

      January 1, 2014 at 10:49 pm |
    • 00 00

      I DIDN'T EVEN SHOWER TODAY, BUT I STILL FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT THINGS

      January 1, 2014 at 10:52 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    At this time of the year, I send out a reminder to all my friends:

    Jesus wasn't born, he was written!

    December 23, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • New Age

      À la mémoire de mon cher Antione D'ave de Lillers qu'il repose en paix

      December 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • 00 00

      AND MORON TOM

      January 1, 2014 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Science Works

    RCC and the UN and secret doc-uments ?

    Philadelphia Archdiocese removes 5 priests from ministry.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/philadelphia-archdiocese-removes-5-priests-from-ministry/

    December 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  9. vigge86

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    December 20, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  10. Money no god needed !

    Head of Catholic Bishops Paid Pedophiles to Disappear
    Thursday, 31 May 2012 12:42

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/9494-head-of-catholic-bishops-paid-pedophiles-to-disappear

    December 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • The Clergy Project

      This is not surprising – they say everyone has a price.

      December 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • RTS ?

        #12 Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

        Posted: Dec 18, 2013

        http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/tarico20131218

        December 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • JDD

      This is wonderful – you've linked to an article dated May 2012. Surely law enforcement has investigated the article's claims by now, and will have taken Dolan into custody. Do you have an update?

      December 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.