Vatican Restricts Minnesota Archbishop

Investigation finds John Nienstedt didn't break church law but took 'imprudent' actions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2024 4:05 PM CST
Vatican Restricts Minnesota Archbishop
Archbishop Bernard Hebda delivers the opening prayer in the Minnesota House in January 2017.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

A lengthy Vatican investigation into misconduct allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt, former leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, concluded that he took "imprudent" actions but did not violate church law, the archdiocese announced Friday. However, the archdiocese said Nienstedt, who is still an archbishop, remains barred from public ministry following the investigation, the AP reports. Nienstedt was one of the first US bishops known to have been forced from office for botching sex abuse investigations. He later was accused of his own inappropriate sexual behavior involving adult males and minors.

His successor, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, in 2016 forwarded allegations to the Vatican that Nienstedt invited two minors to a hotel room in 2005 during a youth rally in Germany to change out of wet clothes, and that he then proceeded to undress in front of them and invited them to do the same. Nienstedt was the bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, at the time. Nienstedt has repeatedly denied all misconduct allegations leveled against him, insisting that he has remained celibate, and said that he welcomed the investigation. But Hebda in 2018 barred Nienstedt from celebrating Mass and other public ministry in the St. Paul-based archdiocese until the allegations were resolved.

On Friday, Hebda said in a statement that the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded that available evidence doesn't support violations of church law, so any such allegations against him were "unfounded." However, Hebda said, "several instances of 'imprudent' actions were brought to light," and while none was deemed to warrant "further investigation or penal sanctions," Pope Francis decided that three administrative actions against Nienstedt were justified. As a result, Nienstedt can't exercise public ministry in the Province of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which covers Minnesota and the Dakotas. He can't live in the province. And he can't exercise any ministry elsewhere without the approval of the local bishop—and only after the Vatican has been notified.

(More Catholic Church stories.)

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