The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Childproof 54: Nienstedt and the Church Mouse

Page 54

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

John R. Gaydos
Bishop — Jefferson City, Mo.

In every congregation of every religious
denomination we find a Church Mouse
Network:  a cadre of unobtrusive,
powerless observers (and the occasional
mean-spirited busybody) with actual
insight and information about the in-
bred institutional management that
they serve.  The primary reason for
this benevolent, and sometimes divisive,
demeanor is that church leaders tend
to believe that thy are always correct
in their facts due to Divine Intervention;
and this attitude is nurtured among
those admitted to a casual, but
designated order of servitude.

Within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis this Church Mouse Network is busy deciphering and broadcasting the antics of your pal, the archbishop.  And one of the unspoken aspects of the
sorry saga of John Clayton Nienstedt is the circuitous route this clergyman has taken to arrive at this point in the fourth decade
of the child sexual molestation scandal of the Twin Cities

John C. Nienstedt
St. Paul-Minneapolis
c. 1982
Nienstedt, a member of the notorious Purple Gang of Detroit, trained at the knee of three Cardinal-Archbishops. 
He is a self-assured operative who
seemed predestined to return home
as the leader of the Michigan church
after his journey in the wilderness of
New Ulm.  Unfortunately for Nienstedt,
the Michigan archdiocese is now
run by another Detroit alumnus:
Allen H. Vigneron.

Nienstedt began his career in 1977 as
secretary to John Francis Cardinal
Edmund Cardinal Szoka
employed Nienstedt as vicar general (1979-1980) and acquiesced two years later to a Vatican request to transfer the Twin Cities church leader to the office of Secretary of State (1980-1987).  Within a decade, Adam Joseph Cardinal Maida (1990-2009), promoted Nienstedt to become an auxiliary bishop for Detroit
(12 June 1996), marked by the approval Szoka, who participated
in his protégé’s consecration at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in midtown-Detroit.  Six months later Vigneron joined the Purple Gang management team, also consecrated by Maida
and Szoka.

When Nienstedt was transferred to the Diocese of New Ulm (2001-2007) he promoted the Tridentine Mass with vigor.  As a crony of Raymond Cardinal Burke and the New Liturgical Movement, he marches in time with a Prima Donna’s fancy:  the “very pink of perfection,” as Oliver Goldsmith writes in She Stoops to ConquerHe also engaged in the strident real politicks of anti-abortion issues, even defending the nonsensical reactionaries who shanghaied
the Terri Schiavo family.

In 2007, Nienstedt was promoted to run the Twin Cities as
co-adjutor and successor to Harry J. Flynn.  He continued
to be a man consumed by the same self-interests of his New Ulm salad days. 
But now he is an unindicted co-conspirator in the child molestation cover-up that has infested the Minnesota branch of the Roman Catholic Church.

Criminal Minds:  Harry J. Flynn and John C. Clayton, in reality, have been
exposed as crime bosses as details of their actions to abort justice and protect
pedophile priests continue to dribble into the public domain.

Buried beneath this scandal is the fact that he was well aware of transfer pedophile priests from New Ulm — Diocese of New Ulm:
44 percent of the parishes were served by sexual offenders — to the Twin Cities.  Working in concert with Archbishop Flynn and his Vicar General, Kevin McDonough, this trio of clergymen worked extremely hard to protect New Ulm child predators like Robert P. Clark and Anthony N. Plathe.

And, with his like-minded pal in Kansas City, Mo. — Robert W.
Finn — Nienstedt began a
campaign to stigmatize segments
of the community — from women who work to the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender community.  His politicization of the church also led to budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat marriage equality, harass the state legislature, and compromise
the police in any number of the criminal sexual conduct cases involving the pedophile priests he employs.

Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop — Detroit, Mich.
Oakland, Calif.
Nonethelesswith Detroit and Maida
ever in his line of sightwhen the time
came for the promotion Nienstedt sought,
the Priest Senate in Detroit archdiocese
canvassed its membership, who declined
the approval of their former comrade.
The Vatican, in turn, tapped Vigneron,
who took over the leadership on 5 January
2009, following his own contentious tenure
in Oakland, Calif.:  political action against
marriage equality and other measures that
he personally finds offensive rather than
prayer and good counsel to support
the commonweal.

Allen H. Vigneron also likes to party, hosting the annual Archbishop’s Gala in much the same way that Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell liked to showboat in Palm Beach with his annual
golf tournament known as the Bishop’s Cup.   Vigneron also
likes to dress up in satin and lace just like his buddy Burke.
A harbinger of Nienstedts fate to come or a just another Marie Antoinette fantasy?

And so the Minnesota phase of Nienstedt’s career shifted in focus
in 2009 to Chicago as successor to Francis Cardinal George, according to a number of insiders with ties to the Minneapolis-
St. Paul church.

Detroit’s Purple Gang 20114:  Adam Joseph Cardinal Maida, Edmund Casimir
Cardinal Szoka , and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron gathered together to
host the 14th Annual Archbishop’s Gala, 8 June 2011.

“When I was [affiliated with a prominent Detroit church], the opinion of the Chancery staff was that Nienstedt expected to return to his home diocese,” according to a source with knowledge of the inner-workings of bother archdioceses.  “Because the clergy would not accept him as archbishop, he set his cap for Chicago,” the source says.

It would appear that the Detroit clergymen are correct in their opposition to the non-existent leadership skills of Nienstedt.
We can only wonder if Bishop Thomas Gumbleton played a role in this turn of events despite the disadvantage to the Minnesota church.  And, yet, the Detroit clergymen may now recognize their mistake in thinking was Vigneron is the better choice due to the fact that he operates in the same political sphere at Nienstedt, Burke, and Co.

Mirror, Mirror:  Vigneron and Nienstedt basked in the glow of a self-congratulatory moment at Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit.  Vigneron engineered an honorary doctorate of “Christian Letters” for presentation the 28 April 2012 commencement ceremony and to mark his tenure as rector (1988-1994) of the Michigan school of theology.
One example of Nienstedt’s ridiculous opinion of his ability as a so-called shepherd of the faithful is the event that culminated in what we’ve chosen to call the Easter Cycle Falderal in April.
Palm Sunday morning, 15 minutes before the service was to begin, Nienstedt over-ruled his liturgical team by ordering the choir to leave the cathedral gallery and perform in the sanctuary.  The musicians and singers objected to the move due to acoustical parameters and rehearsals for the liturgical extravaganza.  This fit of pique proved to be a disaster by, compromising the artistry of the event.

Nienstedt may want to
review the career of
Birgit Nilsson before
attacking another
church choir.
The next day, Nienstedt issued a stinging memorandum to the choir director chastising the fact that members wore casual dress beneath their robes and many performed in sneakers.  The response from the artists
was just as bitter:  no one advised them in advance that they would be seen in public
and appropriate shoes are necessary for
the three-hour affair.

Birgit Nilsson, the unparalleled artist and
a lovely, down-to-earth woman, believed
in the power of comfortable shoes.  A
Wagnerian singer needs a voice that will
carry over a large orchestra, stamina to sing for four hours at a stretch, and an understanding of the complexities of Wagner’s music, according to Nilsson had these and so much more. 

She also was one of the greatest exponents of the title role in Puccini’s Turandot and was praised for her performances of Richard Strauss’ work.  She herself, on a recording of Fledermaus, sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady, so she was certainly game for a joke.

Rev. John Ubel, rector, Cathedral of St. Paul (back row, fourth from left),
specializes in the satin and lace liturgy espoused by Cardinal Burke and his
cronies.  Convinced with the vim and vigor of a Civil War re-enactor, this
brand of clergyman believes that dressing up in antique altar garb will
convince the faithful to remain silent to criminal activity with the church
and increase financial support despite their failed leadership.

On repeated occasions, she remarked that the most important
thing for singing Wagner was a pair of comfortable shoes, and in a performance of Siegfried, she wore a “Do Not Disturb” sign when Siegfried goes to wake her from her magic sleep.  One of my favorite quotes of hers was when someone commented how down-to-earth she was, to which she replied it was so that “when you
fall down, it won’t hurt so much.”

One would think that Nienstedt would have an appreciation of these elements of performance.  But, apparently, he has designs on a boy choir to replicate the sound of music at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.

Two years prior to the Easter Cycle Falderal in Nienstedt altered the liturgical leadership for the archdiocese, again to suit his personal preferences and temperamental leadership skills:  the 2010 resignations of James Biery as Director of Music, organist, and principle liturgist, and Marilyn Biery, as associate music director.  Biery also resigned as chairman of the Cathedral Restoration Fund, which was established to raise
$2.5 million to refurbish the pipe organ
of the mother church.

Within the Church Mouse Network the common opinion for the couple’s departure is church-related politics.  Members of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and professional church singers consider the situation a matter of ecclesiastical insecurity on Nienstedt’s part.
According to one well-placed AGO source in the Twin Cities, Nienstedt either does not like the idea of the idea of the laity supervising liturgical policy or else working with a married couple was a distasteful task. 

“He did not appreciate Jim or Marilyn, despite their stature as composers and liturgists,” one source says, referring to Biery’s 14-year tenure at the cathedral (1996-2010).

Rev. John L. Ubel
James Biery is the recipient three consecutive American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Plus Award annually for his compositions:  2006, 2007, 2008.  In 1986, he was the prize-winner for the highest score on the FAGO exam administered by the American Guild of Organists.  The winner of several organ competitions, he was named Second Prize Winner in the 1980 AGO National Open Competition in Organ Playing.

Marilyn Perkins Biery is an organist, conductor, composer and hymn writer, currently on the music faculty at Wayne State University. Since relocating to Michigan in 2010 she has served as Minister of Music at Royal Oak First United Methodist Church and Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Detroit.  Ms. Biery holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in organ performance from Northwestern University, and a doctorate of musical arts in organ performance from the University of Minnesota.

James and Marilyn Biery now reside in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, where he is Minister of Music at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

Pretty in Pick:  As pastor of St. Agnes, Rev. John Ubel, rector, Cathedral of
St. Paul, espoused shades of rose and lavender for antique altar garb, based on
liturgical rubrics. Unfortunately this level of attention to detail has not
carried over to management and child welfare disciplines of the church
standards and best practices infrastructure.

Since the Bierys departure, Nienstedt has tried to rebuild what he destroyed due to his own liturgical self-interest.  He has not been happy with changes he has wrought.

Lawrence W. Lawyer, a competent organist, is now trodding the peddles on Sunday morning at the cathedral as acting director of sacred music.  Sean Vogt is the new choirmaster, who, according to some music critics, is learning on the job.
Rev. Joseph R. Johnson
Raymond Cardinal Burke, as bishop of La Crosse, Wisc. (1995-2003), gave Lawyer his first big break in church music circles, appointing the musician as organist of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Workman. Burke is a now as much of a disgraced prelate as Nienstedt.

In addition to replacing Biery as director of music, Nienstedt also reorganized the organ restoration committee without former liturgical chief.
Nienstedt removed the Rev. Joseph R. Johnson as Rector of the St. Paul Cathedral and president of the Cathedral Foundation in 2012.  Johnson was transferred to Holy Family Church, St. Louis Park, after six years at the Cathedral.  The Rev. John L. Ubel, pastor of St.  Agnes Church, was brought in as successor. 

At first glance one might assume that politics is a factor:  a new broom sweeping clean.

Ubel and St. Agnes Church champion the Tridentine Mass and the lacey frocks worn Sunday morning ritual.  St.  Agnes also is known as a priest hole for pedophile clergymen on the lam.
But one well-placed AGO member suggests financial issues caused the change in staffing.

“One impression is that the archbishop believed the organ fund is undervalued,” the source says.  “Not that financial irregularities are in play, or money is missing, or fund raising is ineffective,
but that the bookkeeping and account balance are off.”

According to published reports, the $2.5 million is dedicated to the restoration of the Skinner pipe organ.  Whatever the issues surrounding the funding, we can
safely say that money always trumps
the safety of children where church
leadership is concerned. 

And as Nienstedt continues to rewind his clock backwards and remake the Twin Cities according to his fashion as the Church Mouse Network continues to muse and observe.





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