Homophobic Minnesota Archbishop under investigation for “inappropriate sexual relations” with men
Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minnesota is under investigation into “allegations that he had a series of sexual relationships with priests, seminarians and other men.”
The archdiocese confirmed the investigation, which was first reported by Commonweal, a Catholic magazine based in New York. Nienstedt, 67, said in a separate statement that the allegations “are absolutely and entirely false” and he said he himself authorized the internal investigation, which he called “independent, thorough.” “The allegations do not involve minors or lay members of the faithful, and they do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior,” Nienstedt said. “The allegations involve events alleged to have occurred at least a decade ago, before I began serving in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.” Commonweal’s story cites Jennifer Haselberger, former top canon lawyer for Nienstedt, as saying she learned of the investigation when she was questioned by attorneys from the firm that the archdiocese hired, Greene Espel.
He went on to claim that a single allegation from a former priest accused him of improperly touching his neck. However, according to the law firm hired to conduct the investigation, they have gathered quite a number of sworn affidavits along with allegations that he threatened retaliation against anyone who dared report his behavior.
The archbishop agreed to hire an outside law firm to investigate the accusation. By early 2014, the archdiocese had selected the top-ranked Minneapolis firm of Greene Espel. Nienstedt, along with auxiliary bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzens, flew to Washington, D.C., to inform the apostolic nuncio of the allegations. Over the course of the investigation, lawyers have interviewed current and former associates and employees of Nienstedt—including Haselberger, who resigned in protest in April 2013.“Based on my interview with Greene Espel—as well as conversations with other interviewees—I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Haselberger told me. What’s more, “he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.”
Nienstedt has quite a record of open hostility towards the LGBT community. Back in 2007, hepenned an article saying “Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil.” In another screed he said “Homosexuality must be understood in the context of other human disorders: envy, malice, greed, etc.”
Nienstedt has been unrelenting in his efforts to thwart not only marriage equality, but basic dignity for gay people. He was heavily involved in attempting to get Minnesota to ban same sex marriage with the Archdiocese contributing $650,000 to the effort. The ban failed and some attribute it to the serious backlash Nienstedt created within his own community.
The Archbishop is also being investigated into whether he had a sexual relationship with a priest named Curtis Wehmeyer who was sentenced to five years after he pleaded guilty to 20 counts of child sex abuse and child pornography. Neinstedt was the man who appointed him to head two different parishes.
Archbishop Nienstedt deserves to have a full investigation of these allegations with judgment withheld until they are complete. However, if these accusations prove true and Nienstedt really did have gay sexy times while demonizing our community, he will have proven himself the worst kind of bigot, the sort that isn’t content with merely hating themselves, but by making everyone else suffer for that self-loathing.