Archbishop John Nienstedt is digging his heels in the ground.
Despite growing evidence that he downplayed or ignored signs of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he's decided not to resign from his post. Instead, he promised Wednesday to lead the region's Catholics to "a new and better day."
In a column for the Catholic Spirit, he explained:
I am devoted to serving this local Church, and I will continue to do so and to apply these hard lessons that I have learned over the past months. While it may be difficult to believe, the suffering we have endured is bearing much fruit in reform of practices and correction of decisions that were made in the past, either by me or my predecessors.It comes in response to the editorial board of the Star Tribune and a Pioneer Press columnist calling for the archbishop's resignation (and the New York Times shaming him globally). Hundreds of pages of internal documents have been released in the last year putting Nienstedt at the center of the scandal, some of which contradict official statements he'd previously made to the press.
"His credibility is in tatters," the Strib wrote. "The archdiocese needs a different leader -- a reformer -- to have a reasonable chance of restoring its damaged reputation and sustaining its service to the community."
But bishops rarely step down of their own volition. They're appointed by the pope and they fall by the pope, which is why the writers in New York urged Francis to take a harder look at the Twin Cities. Nienstedt knows this.
And he also knows not to say too much. A jury trial begins September 22 in which Jeff Anderson's lawfirm will argue that the church has been negligent in its handling of sexual abuse claims for many years. Read Nienstedt's statement in its entirety and you won't find a single reference to a priest or victim. Yes, the archbishop takes responsibility -- but for what?
Rather, he apologized for "the distractions I inadvertently caused," said he was "too trusting" of the internal review process, and called the last 10 months of his life a "learning curve." He was quick to talk about a new team -- made up of priests, laymen and non-Catholics -- to help assist him as well as a new victim's liaison.
Archbishop, sir, if you're serious about reform and you value the opinions of your critics, then give us a call.