Embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt is facing a church investigation into whether he had inappropriate same-sex relationships with fellow clergy while he was engaged in anti-LGBT advocacy, according to Commonweal, the oldest Catholic journal in the United States.
Commonweal reported on Tuesday that Nienstedt is the target of an investigation by an outside law firm hired by the church to investigate child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which oversees the state’s Catholic churches, organizations, clergy, and staff. The investigation seeks to learn whether Nienstedt had romantic relationships with fellow male staff and clergy, and whether he retaliated against staff and clergy who dismissed his advances.
Commonweal’s source about the investigation is Jennifer Haselberger, a former church employee and whistleblower who uncovered attempts to cover-up child sexual abuse.
“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 Commonweal. “He also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.”
Nienstedt denied the allegations, but did not deny that the investigation is occurring. He claims that the allegations are in retaliation for his efforts against rights for LGBT Minnesotans. From Commonweal:
The allegations are nothing more than a “personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage,” Nienstedt said in a written statement. He also suspects that accusers are coming forward because of “difficult decisions” he has made, but, citing privacy laws, he would not elaborate.
“I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone,” Nienstedt told me. “The allegations are a decade old or more, prior to my service as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” he continued, emphasizing that “none of the allegations involve minors or illegal or criminal behavior.” The “only accusation,” Nienstedt explained, is of “improper touching (of the person’s neck),” and was made by a former priest.