Archbishop John Nienstedt withheld info on sexually abusive priests [VIDEO]
YouTube screen grab
The law firm that is aggressively suing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released on Tuesday the four-hour deposition of head holy man John Nienstedt. The archbishop admitted under oath that he has withheld information about sexually abusive priests, putting the blame on one of his underlings.
"The methods they have employed in the past are being employed in the present," attorney Jeff Anderson told reporters in his office. "We're alarmed. We're sad. And we're scared, the more we learn, the more we see."
It was a bold statement coming from a man who's been immersed in the church's dark dealings for decades. The lawsuit for which Nienstedt testified earlier in the month involves Father Thomas Adamson but alleges that the archdiocese poses a "public nuisance" threat to the entire Twin Cities region. This clever choice of words frees the line of questions beyond Nienstedt's six-year reign over St. Paul and allows Anderson to draw a connection between previous archbishops and other dioceses.
In preparation for trial, a Ramsey County judge has ordered the archdiocese to hand over documents, some 30,000 pages so far, related to the internal investigations of credibly accused priests.
St. Paul police confirmed that officers are in the process of reviewing documents (as well as the deposition) that were turned over by Anderson's firm, not the archdiocese. Criminal investigations are ongoing.
Anderson's firm is expected in a couple weeks to release another deposition -- this one involving former vicar general Kevin McDonough, who Nienstedt named in his testimony. The archdiocese did not make a statement.
In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the highlights of the video released Tuesday.
1. Early in the interrogation, Nienstedt admits that McDonough told him to avoid writing down information about sexually abusive priests because it could be used later in litigation. But he comes up short when pressed about the context of that conversation.
2. A few minutes later, Nienstedt says he never disciplined a single person for the church's mishandling of abuse allegations.
"Do you believe you should have?" Anderson asks.
"No," the archbishop replies.
3. Eventually the topic comes around to Jon Shelley, a priest accused of harboring child pornography on his computer. Here Nienstedt admits to having seen the images, but says he wasn't sure whether they depicted adolescents or adults. Rather than let police sort it out, Nienstedt did nothing. Which may have been illegal.
Anderson: "You're a mandatory reporter, aren't you?"
Nienstedt: "I am."
4. Next the conversation comes to Curtis Wehmeyer, a convicted priest whose dangerous behavior was known to church officials as early as 2004. In this video, Nienstedt says he believed the responsibility of informing trustees fell to McDonough. Only last September, he says, did he find out that McDonough had failed in his duties.
5. And finally, here's the moment that ended the deposition. Nienstedt promises to give police access to church archives only after Kinsale -- a private firm hired by the archdiocese -- finishes its review. Anderson pushes back. Objections fly. And out of the verbal vomit comes Anderson's voice.
"Why wait?" he asks Nienstedt. "Kids are at risk."
Minnesota Public Radio, which set this scandal in motion last fall with its coverage of the Wehmeyer debacle, published a longer version of Nienstedt's video deposition on its website.
Here's the transcript:
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