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
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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 Religion Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Sex abuse

soundoff (243 Responses)
  1. john bruce

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    December 19, 2013 at 4:51 am |
  2. Zen

    What I want to know is: WHY are pedophilic priests afforded more forgiveness and acceptance than divorced/remarried Catholics? A pedophilic priest can continue to say Mass, while a divorced/remarried Catholic is excommunicated.

    THIS is religion??? Who needs it?

    December 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  3. EX Catholic

    So what else is new in that corrupt idolatrous and perverted Politico-religious organization known as the RCC?

    The RCC is not even a church as per the model clearly shown in Scriptures.

    December 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Salero21

      You wouldn't know true Scripture if it walked up to you and shook your hand. You're stupidity in full bloom. 😀

      December 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Billy

      Oh please bring back Celebrity Deathmatch as Fundy Deathmatch.

      December 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  4. Mopery

    You know how they separate the men from the boys at a seminary? With a crowbar!

    December 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  5. Gol

    "inappropriately touched his buttocks" during a public photo session after a church ceremony"

    And yet...there are no photos to even back up a portion of the story.

    Seems that the Archdiocese is doing what would be appropriate at this time. If more evidence comes forward, what kind of evidence after 4 years goes by I do not know, that points to something illegal...then they shouldm allow the law to proceed.

    December 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  6. guest

    So what is new! Do you think the new pope cares?

    December 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Science Works

      Here is something new!

      If the pope cared he would release ALL secret doc-uments concerning UN case !


      A Fascinating New Poll Shows That Americans Are Losing Faith In God

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-harris-poll-on-religion-in-america-2013-12#ixzz2nqwGBjtr

      December 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Mopery

      The new pope loves to show how much he cares, in front of the press, so long as there's a photo-op invovlved he's all for it.

      December 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • JDD

        And if the press were denied access, then your comment would read negatively along those lines.

        December 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • JDD

        Significantly, as has been widely reported on, Pope Francis has been showing care for others long before the cameras showed up. You do know that he's 77 years old, right?

        December 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Science Works

      Come clean about Adam and Eve too !

      Neanderthal Genome Shows Early Human Interbreeding, Inbreeding

      Dec. 18, 2013 — The most complete sequence to date of the Neanderthal genome, using DNA extracted from a woman's toe bone that dates back 50,000 years, reveals a long history of interbreeding among at least four different types of early humans living in Europe and Asia at that time, according to University of California, Berkeley, scientists.


      December 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  7. 7

    Hello Folks.

    Everyone is invited to visit


    December 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Child of God

    You know though when someone who doesn't have the right intentions reads the Bible, they don't see the hidden truths and meanings that we get out of it. That's what's special about God's Word that makes it different from any other writings. Someone who truly wants to understand the Bible will see it but someone who is just trying to find errors will never get the full picture.

    December 18, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Fossil Toss

      True meanings are in the fossil record

      Fossils of 4.4-Million-Year-Old Horse Found
      Dec 15, 2013 03:20 PM ET // by Megan Gannon, Live Science News Editor


      December 18, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • G to the T

      Muslim can say same thing about Koran, Hindus about the Vedas, etc.

      If what you say were true, there would be a LOT more consistency in the beliefs of christians in general.

      December 18, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • igaftr

      You are a christian supremacist.

      December 18, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Rodents for Romney

      Yeah. We know that. It's a phenomenon known as "confirmation bias". Humas wrote every word in your Babble, mostly for political reasons. You are a victim of this phenomenon.

      December 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      I've never before seen such a perfect summary of "The Emperor's New Clothes"

      December 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  9. Don't feed the trolls.


    December 18, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  10. Bootyfunk

    "Earlier this month, under a court order, the archdiocese released the names of 30 priests it believes s.exually abused children since 1950. Police in St. Paul have asked victims of clergy s.exual abuse to come forward."
    +++ yes, sounds like the new catholic church is really trying to help get rid of child molesters in their ranks... as long as they are made to do so by court order. way to stay classy, catholic church!

    December 18, 2013 at 4:40 am |
    • AE

      Since I know you would be able to run a world wide organization with a billion members and millions of employees, step up to the plate and solve all the problems. Your "company" is in just about every country in the world, and every one if them has somewhat the same guidelines but all differ. You are one person who has to know everything about everyone everywhere. You have just been chosen to lead this "company" and clean it up. You have nine months to accomplish this. Go.

      December 18, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • midwest rail

        Step 1. Issue a papal edict instructing Bishops worldwide to turn over all materials that have been requested/subpoenaed immediately. Any Bishop that refuses will be suspended immediately. That would be a good start.

        December 18, 2013 at 11:55 am |
        • Gol

          Who exactly do you think they should turn those supposed doc uments to?

          December 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
        • midwest rail

          The civil authorities who've subpoenaed them. You know, all those "missing" doc-uments ??

          December 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
      • Did a simple search

        Someone is advising the Bishops in Minnesota.

        St. Paul Police Chief Says Archdiocese of St. Paul and Mpls. is Uncooperative

        Updated: 12/18/2013 10:09 AM
        Created: 12/17/2013 4:43 PM KSTP.com

        December 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
        • JDD

          You'll understand (thought perhaps not agree) that there are two sides to this story – and the Archdiocese has already issued a response, and a meeting is already set.


          December 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Gol

      "But current research and expert opinion suggest that men within the Catholic Church may be no more likely than others to abuse, and that the prevalence of abuse by priests has fallen sharply in the last 20-30 years."

      December 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
      • midwest rail

        "...may be no more likely than others to abuse..."
        Does research suggest that those "others" are transferred, protected, or shielded from prosecution by a parent organization ?

        December 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  11. David

    Your real problem is whether YOU exist, not whether God exists. If there is no God, then everything is just physics and matter, molecules and forces. Then your brain is essentially no different from a rock on the ground, except for the particular arrangement of those atoms. And the next thing that you say is just brain chemistry. There is no YOU that speaks, just brain chemistry producing sound out of your mouth. Is that right or not?

    Molecules can’t decide between good ideas and bad ideas, between logic and illogic, between right and wrong. Everything about YOU tells YOU that YOU exist! There is more to YOU than molecules. And once YOU admit that YOU exist, it’s easy to figure out that God exists.

    December 17, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • doobzz

      Laughable. Truly laughable.

      December 17, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Al

      Ok, you're a rock.

      December 18, 2013 at 1:38 am |
      • Be nice

        Now now, he said his brain was a rock, not all of him.

        December 18, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      "There is no YOU that speaks, just brain chemistry producing sound out of your mouth. Is that right or not?"
      incorrect. it's both. we are just an arrangement of molecules/atoms, but that particular arrangement is YOU.

      do you really want to understand or are you trying to give atheists an "i gotcha"? not really working for ya...

      "Molecules can’t decide between good ideas and bad ideas, between logic and illogic, between right and wrong. Everything about YOU tells YOU that YOU exist! There is more to YOU than molecules. And once YOU admit that YOU exist, it’s easy to figure out that God exists."
      so you're saying the answer is 'magic'? the answer is an invisible sky fairy that used magic to create everything? that's a terrible explanation and lazy. because we are self-aware means there is a god? absolutely awful 'logic'. we are amazing creatures. the way our atoms/molecules are arranged gives us self-awareness. it also gives us a great imagination. we like to imagine an old man with a long white beard in the sky that watches over us. it's cute - like stories about santa claus. but i'd rather know the truth, i'd rather know my parents worked hard to buy presents for me. i'd rather find the truth than believe in a fairy tale.

      December 18, 2013 at 4:32 am |
      • And then...

        You guys aren't grasping solipsism somehow. You can't prove to me that you are not my dream.

        December 18, 2013 at 7:37 am |
        • Shaweet

          Nobody cares if you exist or not.

          December 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • JDD

        "the way our atoms/molecules are arranged gives us self-awareness. it also gives us a great imagination."

        Bootyfunk, this is the great leap of logic on your side of the conversation. In my experience, the conversation from the atheist / humanist never gets to explaining the details of this statement.

        "we like to imagine an old man with a long white beard in the sky that watches over us. it's cute..."

        And this is the great strawman, and caricature. If you ever want to have serious conversation about God, you're going to have to give up this bias. Thankfully, neither Christians nor atheists believe in a white-bearded old man. Nor harps. Nor heavenly boredom.

        December 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In the words of the mystic prophet Jayden Smith:
      "How can mirrors be real if our eyes aren't real?"

      December 18, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • JDD


      You've made a good initial argument here. Hopefully they're get more engagement, along with the usual name calling and ridicule.

      December 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  12. Sea Otter (Leader of the Allied Atheist Alliance)

    Stop touching me Elmo!

    December 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  13. Dr. Dave

    Some relevant factoids on evolution – the underlying philosophy of the atheist’s worldview:

    1. Good websites:

    See my Short Course in Creation / Evolution, starting either at the beginning or at the article Probabilities vs. Impossibilities.


    Search through the archived articles on these sites.

    2. THERE IS NO THEORY OF EVOLUTION: Life is too complex for time, physics, and chance. Even if the whole universe were filled with amino acids, you couldn’t get one useful protein molecule in 30 billion years. Or DNA. Do the math. Also, from any kind (like reptiles) to another (like birds) requires the same mathematical impossibilities – WAY TOO MANY changes in the DNA. Also no theory for the first complete cell. Or from single cells to invertebrates, etc. Evolutionists have NO THEORIES, HYPOTHESES, SPECULATIONS, OR EVEN FANTASIES to address these problems.

    3. THERE IS NO FOSSIL EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION: The fossil record shows separate kinds throughout. All of the paleontologists’ ‘trees of life’ show fossils only at the tips of the branches and none at the branch points. Ergo, no evolution in the fossil record. Many creatures, like dinosaurs and dodo birds, are extinct. Extinction is death, not evolution. Reptiles (like dinosaurs) used to be bigger. Plants and insects used to be bigger and spread from pole to pole. The evidence shows that life is de-volving, not evolving.

    4. THERE IS NO TIME FOR EVOLUTION: Radioactive dating (plus hundreds of other methods) prove a “young” earth. Carbon 14, for example, has a short half-life, yet is found in coal and diamonds which are supposed to be hundreds of millions to billions of years old. For carbon 14 to be present, the age limit is thousands of years – it’s NOT POSSIBLE for carbon 14 to survive millions of years. So evolution doesn’t even rise to the level of science fiction.

    5. THERE ARE NO OBSERVATIONS OF EVOLUTION: Life always comes from life. No exceptions. In fact, humans come from humans, dogs from dogs, bananas from bananas. The variations within any kind have definite limits, which has been proven by many, many experiments over the last 150 years. The entire variation among humans on planet earth is just 2 tenths of 1 percent of our DNA. (And “racial” characteristics are only about 1/20 of that.)

    6. WHERE DO THE FOSSILS COME FROM? A worldwide flood, as recorded in Genesis: If it happened, what would you expect to find? Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. Guess what you find?

    December 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Perhaps you're right. There may be a massive conspiracy to hide evidence of biblical truth and promote atheistic science. The reason for it, Satan, is well-hidden and well-served by atheism. Many are deceived.

      December 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Rhetorical question: How stupid do you have to be to believe the nonsense you have posted?

      December 17, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
      • Mary

        Why can't you refute it with counter-arguments instead of just saying it is stupid?

        December 18, 2013 at 9:06 am |
        • G to the T

          Because the sources he sites have already been disproven and dismissed some time ago.

          December 18, 2013 at 10:55 am |
        • jimmy

          G to the T

          show us

          December 18, 2013 at 11:09 am |
        • G to the T

          Here's an example of a christian site rebutting all of Answeringenisis.com's articles.

          There's also an entire site dedicated to rebutting it – "www.noanswersingenesis.org"

          In addition, I've taken college level science course on evolution and we did several exercises were we would pick specific articles from sites/people like this and rebut them as part of our course-work.

          They are (without deviation) crap and the info they provide is crap. That help Jimmy me boy?

          December 18, 2013 at 11:22 am |
        • Fossil Toss

          Jimminy xmas Jimmy – Texas lost – not so good for Rick Perry types.

          A final victory in Texas

          December 17th, 2013
          Climate Change


          December 18, 2013 at 11:30 am |
        • G to the T

          Jimmy – that enough or should I spend another 5 minutes on basic research on your behalf?

          December 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Oh really now . . .

      Watching religious fanatics try to discuss science is like watching 3-year-olds dressing up like daddy, with his suit drooping all over them and his tiny feet in those big shoes. It's kind of cute and quite funny.

      December 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
      • saggyroy

        Until someone puts an eye for an eye out.

        December 18, 2013 at 5:44 am |
    • HotAirAce

      When and where will your scholarly article successfully debunking evolution be published?

      December 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • doobzz

      I thought you were joking the first time you posted this, but I guess you're serious. I'm sure the scientific community is quaking with fear.

      December 17, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      dr dave...
      you cannot have done any research on what you posted.

      +++ wrong. in fact, in the scientific world, it is EXACTLY called the Theory of Evolution. so yes, in fact, there is a theory of evolution.

      "Life is too complex for time, physics, and chance. Even if the whole universe were filled with amino acids, you couldn’t get one useful protein molecule in 30 billion years. Or DNA"
      +++ says who? what research are you citing? aside from the silly anti-science christian websites.... this has been debunked a million times, as has every other "point" you've made. it makes you look like an angry child that refuses to look at a definition of a word in the dictionary because then he'll have to stop using it incorrectly.

      December 18, 2013 at 4:38 am |
    • Answer

      The religious freaks with their joke sites.. hilarious.

      ~You want ignorance; well they certainly do provide it for their sheep.


      December 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  14. Idontbelievemajorityofpriestsaredeviant

    What happen to INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILITY?
    Folks are just as bad who spread this crap...CNN

    December 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • saggyroy

      These guys go around preaching BS without evidence. Why not convict without evidence? Now you want evidence?

      December 18, 2013 at 5:46 am |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    we are all born as atheists

    the abuse comes when parents and priests brainwash children with bronze age fairy stories and the threat of eternal fire and torment if they don't believe.

    let's set up a commission to investigate THAT abuse!

    December 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • JJ

      I agree. If that abuse didn't happen then priests wouldn't be able to rape the children of their sheep in the first place.

      December 17, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  16. Joe H

    I remember the good old days when the priests and nuns just used to hit you.

    December 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Colin

      Can you fu.cking read? What is the allegation? Why did he wait 4 years to come forward? "Touched his but.tocks in public?" Oh, poor baby!!

      December 17, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  17. Colin

    So, the allegation is that he "inappropriately touched his b.uttocks" 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,""

    That is all? What a crock of garbage. Sounds like a crazy kid or a classic US civil litigation shakedown. For the love of god, even if it happened, it was over 4 years ago.

    December 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Not so, Bozo

      In the context of one's own religion, reluctance and delays in revealing a crime of this sort are incredibly common. As a perfect example, the state with the highest rate of ra>pe is Utah, as Mormon girls rarely if ever will reveal it when the rapist is a Mormon, especially in her own community.

      So delays like this are actually characteristic of this situation.

      Oh, Utah leads the nation in rape as well as just unreported rape, porn consumption, and anti-depressant use.

      December 17, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
      • Another List

        Earlier this month, under a court order, the archdiocese released the names of 30 priests it believes se-xually abused children since 1950.

        Plus 14 more names on another list.

        December 18, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  18. maria

    Is that news? really ? we have been hear that for ages.... and" live of absence " oh really ? why is he not in jail like yesterday? what makes him having priority over regular pedophiles? I was Catholic going to Church every Sunday ...today? I don't go at all! lost my faith in the Church the priests or pastors or whatever I am not going to give money to a pedophile to pay for his lawyers not way! the Catholic Church is in bankruptcy since they are paying millions to the victims of child abuse what a irony! I didn't lost my faith in my God but in others ? YES indeed!

    December 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  19. Robert

    Almost everybody on this blog has jumped to conclusions. The Archdioceses in Minneapolis has an incredible child protection process in place for all of it's churches, church functions and schools. I am going to choose to have faith that the truth shall be found out here.

    December 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • maria

      Oh really? you live in a La-la land my friend! you don't know nothing about this people who knows maybe right now someone is being violated in your church! keep given money to those people to pay for their lawyers is many pedophiles yes !!!!PEDOPHILES in the church they need millions to pay the lawyers indeed! NOT ME!

      December 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
      • N

        Down, hyena.

        December 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm |

    • "The truth shall be found out here."

      Where? There?



      "Oh yes! Don't touch me there!"

      December 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.