News Revelations

Documents show Vatican official allegedly stopped Minnesota investigation

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, center, and other bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota concelebrate Mass at the Altar of the Tomb in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on March 9. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

 

(RNS) A Vatican spokesman says the release of documents alleging its former ambassador to the U.S. stopped an investigation of a Minnesota archbishop “is a very complex issue” that will require further study.

“We need more information before we can make any comment,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

The spokesman’s remarks came in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday (July 21), the day after a new collection of documents regarding clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was made public.

Among them was a memo that detailed sexual misconduct and harassment allegations against former Archbishop John Nienstedt, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

It also said the Vatican ambassador in 2014 had told bishops to stop their investigation. When those bishops responded with a letter saying that “would rightly be seen as a coverup,’’ the memo published on the Star Tribune website said, then-ambassador Archbishop Carlo Vigano told them to “destroy” the letter.

The documents were released hours after the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office dropped criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for its handling of sex abuse allegations against another priest, the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, the Star Tribune reported.

Wehmeyer, who was a priest in St. Paul, was convicted in 2013 of sexually abusing the sons of a church employee and is now serving time in prison, it said.

The Rev. Dan Griffith, a canon lawyer, wrote in the memo:

“As you know, the case of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer has garnered much media attention, including red flags missed by the Archdiocese and the subsequent abuse of two minor boys. What is not known by the press, the public or many in archdiocesan leadership is that the evidence suggests Archbishop Nienstedt had an ongoing social relationship with Fr. Wehmeyer, [which] included dining together and drinking alcohol.”

That relationship — and allegations of Nienstedt’s own past misconduct — may have influenced his judgment in Wehmeyer’s case, the memo said.

Before the investigation was cut off, lawyers had taken affidavits from 11 witnesses and planned to pursue 24 more leads alleging the archbishop had engaged in “sexual misconduct; sexual harassment; reprisals in response to the rejection of unwelcome advances” and a sexual relationship with a Swiss Guardsman, The New York Times reported.

Nienstedt resigned as archbishop last year. He reportedly lives in Michigan and has denied any sexual impropriety, according to the Star Tribune.

Vigano retired earlier this year and returned to live in the Vatican. He famously had organized the brief meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, when the pontiff visited the U.S. in 2015.

Francis replaced him with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, a career diplomat whose approach is seen as more in line with the pope’s.

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About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

15 Comments

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  • Another story about a “gay” infiltrating the priesthood and molesting boys. Say it ain’t so!
    Gays don’t do stuff like that, now, do they?

  • As I told you before, you cannot become a priest without a literal calling from God, known as a vocation. The church has its means of determining which vocations are valid, because many are not,

    So, if the church has been infiltrated, as you so charmingly and erroneously put it, perhaps your holy church is as thoroughly corrupt as it appears to be. And if you are any example of what constitutes a good synodic with your reviling and slandering…

    We’ll, who am I to judge?

  • And as I’ve told you before, your assertion has no validity, and you obviously do not understand Catholic teaching.

    A man can MOST CERTAINLY become a priest without a vocation. All he needs to do is enter a seminary, stick it out, and get ordained. There is no way for the Church to know whether he actually has a vocation.

    Your ignorance on the subject is belied by the fact that priests get defrocked all the time. Some of the gays have been defrocked. They should never have been ordained in the first place because they don’t have vocations.

    In addition, the Catholic Church has a ban, going back to 1962, on allowing “gays” into the priesthood. It was issued under Pope John XXIII.

    So, your assertion is absurd. If “gays” are banned from being ordained, that means the Church believes they don’t have vocations.

    And they don’t.

    All that aside, it doesn’t change the fact that it has been “gays” that have been practicing their evil in the Catholic priesthood.

    And as I told you before, and as everyone with half a brain knows, no one is born a priest.

    However, according to you, people are born “gay.” Well, if they are, it has been “gays” that have been responsible for the carnage within the Catholic priesthood because they were “gay” before they were priests.

    If there were not a single “gay” in the priesthood, there would be no molestation of altar boys. Normal men don’t do that; “gays” do.

    You don’t want to admit it, for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t change the truth of the matter.

    You can find an example of a man who never had a vocation by googling Fr. Peter Miqueli, who lived with his boyfriend and pilfered the funds of hard working parishioners in NY.

    And if you claim that the Church is corrupt due to infiltration of “gays,” then what are you saying about “gays”?

    It’s an admission on your part that “gays” are corrupt.

    And that would be a true statement by you.

  • Well, I guess the Monsignor at st. Patrick’s was wrong. I’ll tell him.

    OK! I’ll go with “some gays are corrupt.” Does that mean that the corruption of the Catholic Church attracts corrupt people? Because every gay man I have ever known– but one, out of THOUSANDS– thinks under aged- boys are not only off limits, and are as horrified by it as you allege to be.

    As for your ignorance about the subjects of sexual orientation, child molestation, and sexuality in general– well, that speaks for itself

  • Is the monsignor himself gay? If so, you’re not going to get a correct answer from him, now, are you?

    You can start by asking him why, if the Church issued a ban on “gays” entering seminaries, it would at the same time think that “gays” have vocations.

    Utter nonsense.

    Of course sodomites think the Catholic Church is corrupt. They always will. Why? Because the Catholic Church holds to the teaching of Christ that sodomy is a sinful perversion and that people who engage in it are perverse and on the road to hell for all eternity… unless they repent.

    There is hope for you. You just need to recover from your illness.

    And you are ill. Homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

  • Well, of course, I am of the opinion that homohatred, especially when consciously disguised as “sincere religious belief”, is the illness, one that has destroyed, harmed, and killed far more people than homosexuality could ever do if it took on destroying people as a full time hobby.

    But, I’m not here to convince you. I think people will read my comments, read yours, and make a decision.

  • Uh-huh.

    And hatred of the Catholic Church has never “destroyed, harmed, or killed anyone.”

    No Catholics have ever been killed, even by homosexuals.
    (Oops, google Mary Stachowicz).

    The people who have “homohatred” are the homosexuals themselves because they are their own worst enemies. They are going to die, like all of us, and then what? What happens then?

    You hate the Catholic Church, but if it weren’t for the Catholic Church, you probably would not exist. If you’re of white European stock, then your ancestors were most likely Catholic.

    And it was the Catholic Church that repelled the Muslim invasion of Europe. Catholics spilled their blood to keep Muslims from overrunning that continent. If they had not done so, you would be reading the Koran and going to mosque on Friday.

    ETA: The majority of the world, of course, does not agree with you that homosexuality is normal. It’s a figment of the imagination of sick western societies. The same ones that threw off the Catholic Church.

  • You have to start asking yourself the difficult questions, starting with the premise that one day you will die.

    What happens to you then? Do you just disappear into thin air?

    Can’t you tell that that’s contrary to right reason?

    You have a soul, man, and that soul will live on. You are destined for greater things, and you’re throwing it away. For what? A few short years on an earth that you know for a fact you’re going to depart from?

    Think!

  • Amazing… “the gays” are responsible for “the carnage” of the RC priesthood. I’ve heard it all. You have a hierarchy that was put in place to crack down on priests and religious who were supposedly too involved in work for social justice… and that hierarchy spent decades continuing and deepening the coverup of sexual abuse by priests and bishops. What planet are you on that in this 21st century you can explain this by blaming “the gays” (who you say automatically could never “have a vocation”? Feels like we just entered into a house of distorted mirrors….

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