The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Childproof 47: Nienstedt Marks Fourth Decade of Child Sex Cover-Up with Renewed Vigor in Minnesota

Page 47

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

The 2002 USCCB Charter has
become a public relations
boilerplate of gobbledygook,
particularly in the Archdiocese
of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
When you and Harry J. Flynn were
appointed by the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) in 2002 to draft the
so-called Charter for the
Protection of Children and
Young People
you stated publicly
that the American hierarchy has
not been faithful to its vision.

Ten years later we’ve discovered that
John C. Nienstedt, Flynn’s successor
as archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis
set aside this re-vision to renew the
effort to protect pedophile priests
and cover up the sex crimes of other
clerical predators.

Despite decades old promises to do the right thing,  it is evident that the next generation of American bishops prefers to maintain the status quo of this culture of violence.  And we are able to acknowledge with certitude that Nienstedt is aligned with this conspiracy of silence now well into its fourth decade.

As noted throughout this report, Thy Child’s Face has identified
Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, as the unequivocal leader
of this new gang of rogue bishops.  Nienstedt, a competent
lieutenant, is embedded within this group, which includes the
new president of the USCCB, Joseph E. Kurz, archbishop of Louisville, Ky. , and his Knoxville, Tenn., successor, Richard F. Stika (Kurz succeeded Anthony J. O’Connell in 1999; Stika, like  O’Connell, is a product of the St. Louis, Mo., seminary system); Robert J. Carlson, archbishop of St. Louis and the man who helped John R. Roach (1995-2008), Flynn’s predecessor, organize the Twin Cities’ cover-up in the 1980’s.  The Minnesota influence also extends to the diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, with
the 2008 promotion of Richard E. Pates after his tour of duty with Flynn as an auxiliary bishop (2001-2008). 

But an interesting side note is that in 1983 Roach promoted Carlson to become a Twin Cities auxiliary bishop.  Paul V. Dudley, bishop
of Sioux Falls, S.D. (1978-1995) and a former Roach auxiliary, participated in Carlson’s  1983 consecration ceremony.  Dudley resigned as bishop of Sioux Falls after denying six separate allegations child molestation were made public in 1994.  Carlson, then, succeeded Dudley (1995-2005).  Archbishop Flynn cleared Dudley of the charges.

Thy Child’s Face notes frequently that the leadership of the American
hierarchy seems to operate as criminal conspiracy network:  a gangland
confederacy bent on protecting predatory priests and employees who
work within the system.  The Archdiocese of the St. Paul-Minneapolis
is a major link in this power grid of corruption, which is now nearly
midway through its fourth 10-year cycle of abuse.  At the helm we’ve
had (top row, left to right) John R. Roach (1975-1995); Harry J. Flynn
(1995-2008); and John C. Nienstedt (appointed in 2008).  The henchmen
for this band of brothers are (bottom row, left to right):  Robert J. Carlson,
auxiliary bishop (1983-1994) and, currently, archbishop of St. Louis, Mo.;
the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general (1989-2009); and the Rev. Peter A.
Laird (2009-2013).  Carlson was consecrated bishop by Roach and a former
St. Paul auxiliary bishop, Paul V. Dudley.  As bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D.
(1978-1995), Dudley denied six public allegations of abuse.  Nonetheless,
Dudley resigned and Carlson was named his successor (1995-2004).
The USCCB officially began “addressing the evil of sexual abuse of minors” by priests at its June 1992 meeting, with the publication of Restoring Trust in November 1993.  By 2002 the American bishops had failed utterly to meet the benchmarks and standards that they trumpeted for so many years.  This epic fault now has morphed into its current phase, which, to date, has costs parishioners in the United States $2.5 billion in reparation, medical costs, and legal fees, according to the USAToday; and $11 million between 2003 and 2012 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The actions of Flynn and Carlson, especially in these cases, led to a 2003 tally of settlement and legal expenses estimated at $8.8 million for the years 1989-2003.  Archbishop Flynn raided $3.1 million from a priest retirement fund labeled “Clergy Benefit Fund”; and $700,000 from a fund earmarked for charity and social services for settlement awards.  An insurance policy paid legal expenses estimated at $5 million.  So essentially Nienstedt and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have a current tab running at $20 million (est.).

As the New York Times noted in its 2 May 2006 story entitled, Pensions in Peril Over Church Exemptions:

“The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis revealed in a rare
public discussion of its accounts i
n 2003 that it had tapped into
an 82-year-old pension fund for priests to help pay legal
settlements and other costs involving sexual abuse claims,
something the pension law would not allow a nonreligious
organization to do.  The archdiocese decided to use the money
that way, it said, because it had set up another priests’ pension
fund in 1969, reducing the importance of the older fund.

“James J. Keightley, former general counsel to the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation
, said he thought more such
problems would arise.  There have been a significant number
of plans that have gotten their I.R.S. ruling letters and have
opted out of P.B.G.C. coverage,’ he said. Every plan that
loses insurance protection is at risk.’  He . . . now practice[s]
at the Washington firm of Keightley and Ashner [Harold J.
Ashner, a former assistant general counsel for legislation
and regulations at the pension agency].”

The morass of child molestation and the dismay over the deliberate inaction of clerics like Nienstedt and Flynn led to the 14 Articles of the so-called Charter.  But the document has suffered the same fate as the previous commitments of the USCCB. 

It is evident that Nienstedt and the next generation of American bishops have failed every Article except the four that are the most self-serving (Articles 9-12), despite the sentiment expressed in the preamble:
“The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and long-lasting . . . . We apologize . . . for the grave harm that has been inflicted . . . Let there now be no doubt . . . our obligation to protect children and young people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself.

Let us recap the failed promises made by Nienstedt and his colleagues: 

§  Outreach to victims/survivors and demonstrate a sincere
   commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being
   including counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups,
   and other social services (Article 1).

§  Prompt response to any allegation that sexual abuse of
   a minor has occurred (Article 2).

§  Forego confidentiality agreements except in cases where
   substantial reasons are brought forward by the victim/survivor
   and noted in the text of the agreement (Article 3).

§  Report allegations of sexual abuse of minors to the public
   authorities; and cooperate in their investigation in accord
   with the law of the jurisdiction in question.  In every instance,
   bishops will advise victims of their right to make a report to
   public authorities and will support this right (Article 4).

§  Concur that the priesthood or religious life is no place
   in for anyone who would harm the young (Article 5).

§  Maintain and enforce standards of ministerial behavior
   and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church
   personnel in positions of trust (Article 6).

§  Develop a communications policy that reflects a commitment
   to transparency and openness (Article 7).

§  Nurture the consistent application of these principles
   and provide a vehicle of accountability and assistance
   to the USCCB Office for Child and Youth Protection
   (Article 8).

§  Evaluate the background of all diocesan and parish
   personnel who have regular contact with minors:
   specifically, utilizing the resources of law enforcement
   and other community agencies.  In addition, they will
   employ adequate screening and evaluative techniques
   in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination
   in accordance with the USCCB Program of Priestly
, 1993 (Article 13).

§  Bishops and religious superiors will provide, review,
   and acknowledge an accurate and complete description
   of any cleric’s record before an assignment, transfer,
   or residence is approved in another diocese within the
   United States, another country, or a religious order.
   This record will include any information in his background
   or service that would raise questions about his fitness for
   ministry in accordance with the USCCB and Conference
   of Major Superiors of Men Proposed Guidelines on the
   Transfer or Assignment of Clergy and Religious
, 1993
   (Article 14).

The printed word and spirit of the Charter changed little in  1993, 2003, and 2013.  But it appears that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has never perused the text: 

“In the midst of this terrible crisis of sexual abuse of young people by priests and bishops and how it has been dealt with by bishops . . . we wish to affirm our concern especially with regard to issues related to effective consultation of the laity . . . . in decision making that affects their well-being.  We must increase our vigilance to prevent those . . . who . . . exploit the priesthood for their own immoral and criminal purposes from doing so.”

Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (left) and Philip Berrigan, S.S.J. (1923–2002),
were prosecuted and imprisoned for their social justice and
anti-war activities.  The Brothers Berrigan, who grew up in
Two Harbors, Minn., also were named to the FBI Most Wanted
List because of their peace and civil rights efforts.  Phillip
Berrigan was nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Daniel, aged 92, continues to address injustice based on the
coalition he formed with his brother and Thomas Merton,
O.C.S.O., the famed Trappist monk and author of The Seven
Story Mountain.
  We have to wonder why predatory priests
are able to escape justice so easily in light of the work these
two priests have accomplished.
So we think it appropriate to reprint of a column published in 2004 on the editorial page of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press advising Archbishop Flynn about his non-compliance issues with the Charter that he wrote.  Maybe Nienstedt will take the hint: 

Church is underreporting abuse by its clergy
St. Paul Pioneer Press ï 5 January 2004 ï Page 13-A

By Michael Wegs
Guest Columnist

Unlike the child molestation scandals that permeated the Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s and 1990s, the current scandal has forced bishops nationwide to disgorge data about the number of ordained pedophiles and their survivors/victims for public inspection.  No longer can the American hierarchy sweep the numerous crimes against children under the rug.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced last month that 33 priests sexually molested 69 children and minors over the past 50 years.  Three of Minnesota’s five other dioceses also have reported crime statistics:  Duluth, 18 priests, 42 survivors; St. Cloud, 26 priests, 49 survivors (1982-2003); Winona, 13 priests, 48 survivors.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (MNSNAP) applauds Archbishop Harry Flynn and his colleagues for taking this step at disclosure, albeit a small one.

SNAP established its Minnesota chapter in August 2002.  Since then more than 200 queries of clerical sexual abuse have been received from Minnesota residents.  More than 100 participants attended a Survivors Network Minnesota weekend seminar in January in St. Paul; and more than 200 attended a second weekend seminar in Minneapolis.  Today SNAP has more than 70 Minnesota members.  At least 12 members of the Minnesota chapter have lawsuits pending against the Archdiocese.

Given the statistics, SNAP believes Flynn and Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have underplayed the number of “credible” abuse allegations; and this failure ignores the transparency and accountability criteria outlined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  A truly responsible report of the scope of criminal activity by ordained sexual predators within the church in Minnesota would have been compiled by civil authorities from church personnel records at chancery offices.  But this is not the case.

Instead, the Archdiocese chose its own inspectors to draft the report of its criminal priests in conjunction with investigators selected by the USCCB.  Although former Maple Grove Police Chief Sherman Otto and former Plymouth Police Chief Richard Setter have enjoyed distinguished careers, they have failed to include even the simplest pertinent details such as the dates and locations of the crimes committed against the children of Minnesota.

An institutional body severely scarred by internal scandal cannot begin to recover without in-depth analysis and support.  For that reason alone, municipalities seek federal mediation and establish an independent citizen committee to investigate police misconduct.

Years ago priests like Daniel and Phillip Berrigan (Minnesota natives from Two Harbors) were arrested for protesting the war in Vietnam, racial injustice, and poverty.  They were accused of flaunting the rule of law as it governs a civil society. 

But this is this not the case with Minnesota’s bishops?  Is this not the case with St. John’s Abey in Collegeville where at least 13 Benedictine monks, who are admitted sexual predators, are not in prison and allowed to conduct retreats?  Is tis not the case with the Croiser Fathers in Shoreview, who continue to shield at least 11 priests and brothers from prosecution?

The Minnesota hierarchy could do no worse in establishing a truly independent investagatory body comprising laity, clergy, civil authorities, and SNAP survivors.  The bottom line is tha the bishops of Minnesota do not make law; their duty as American citizens is to obey the law by giving all allegations of sexual molestation the police and county attorneys to investigate.

Wegs, of Minneapolis, is public policy advisor for the Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests.





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