The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' Archbishop John Nienstedt is well-known for his outspoken statements against gay people and marriage equality. And now, the Catholic leader is under investigation by a law firm hired by the Archdiocese, based on “multiple allegations” that Nienstedt had relations with multiple men, including priests and seminarians. Although he authorized the investigation himself, the Archbishop denies the allegations are true. His archdiocese confirmed that the investigation was underway, according to the Religion News Service.
The story was first reported by the Catholic magazine Commonweal, based on an interview with the archdiocese's former canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger. Here's what she told them, apparently based on conversations with the lawyers doing the investigation:
"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.”
According to RNS, the lawyers' lines of inquiries include an investigation into whether the archbishop had a relationship with Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest at the center of a sex abuse scandal currently plaguing the archdiocese.
In response to the story, Nienstedt told Commonweal that "I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone." And in a statement, Neinstedt emphasized that "The allegations do not involve minors or lay members of the faithful, and they do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior." This is not, however, the first time the Archbishop has faced criticism for alleged misconduct, including a December accusation that he groped a boy during a photo session for a confirmation into the church. That accusation did not result in charges against Nienstedt. And Neinstedt has been accused of helping to cover up the sex abuse scandal in the archdiocese.
In 2012, Nienstedt secured about $650,000 in church money to support a proposed amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. That amendment ultimately failed at the polls, despite his considerable efforts to rally Catholics to vote for its passage. But he's continued to oppose same-sex relationships with fiery rhetoric, as well. He has claimed that "Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth" are "threatening the stability of our civilization," and that the source of those "threats" is satan. And earlier, the Archbishop became infamous for writing a letter to a Catholic mom, telling her she had to either reject her gay son or burn in hell forever.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.