New York Times criticizes Archbishop John Nienstedt for handling of sex abuse cases


The chorus of John Nienstedt's critics got a lot bigger last week with the addition of the New York Times.

The editorial board of the nation's paper of record stopped short of calling for the archbishop's resignation, but said, "[T]he archdiocese has made a mockery of accountability."

See also:

Kevin McDonough, former vicar general, refused to cooperate with police investigations

Earlier this month, Pope Francis begged Catholics who'd been sexually abused for forgiveness and vowed to get tougher on the bishops who hid pedophiles. With these words in mind, the Times concluded:

Hundreds of American priests have been forced from service because of pedophile crimes, but the parallel need for accountability among those who covered up the scandal has been shamefully avoided. In promising closer attention to this issue, the pope should not overlook the church's leadership disarray in the Twin Cities.

The editorial came in response to a 120-page affidavit (made public July 15) by Jennifer Haselberger, a former canon attorney and victims advocate who claims she was ignored, marginalized and bullied for trying to warn her superiors about sexually deviant men. Last year, she blew a whistle on the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and one of Nienstedt's prelates wound up resigning.

Calls for Nienstedt to step down have been numerous and include local parishioners, individual priests and university professors. As late as December 2013 -- eight months after she quit in protest -- Haselberger still believed that Nienstedt was the right man to clean up local parishes. In her affidavit, she wrote,

I believed that the Archdiocese would be better served by an Archbishop who had made mistakes, but who had come to see the error of his ways, than by an untested replacement whose lack of experience could cause him to underestimate, until it was too late, the challenges to be faced.

She abandoned hope, however, when Nienstedt told reporters that he "was as surprised as anyone else" to learn clerical sexual abuse was not behind the archdiocese. We later asked Haselberger about this statement, and she was adamant: "Whole forests were felled to make the paper on which ... I was informing him of all of these problems."

As it turns out, the archbishop testified as part of a pedophilia lawsuit in April that he knew of dangerous priests in the ranks but kept the information mostly to his inner circle.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse