Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, who left the Catholic church due to the disclosures about the abuse situation when the crisis broke wide open in 2002 and afterwards, weighs in on the Nienstedt story and Jennifer Haselberger's affidavit. Dreher stands with the bishops in their attacks on gay folks and women, and he agrees with them in their claim that religious freedom is under attack in the U.S. today. He reads the presidential executive order defending gay folks from discrimination in federal programs as an attack on religious liberty, as the U.S. Catholic bishops do, too.
But his argument about the Nienstedt story and Haselberger's affidavit: the bishops are seriously damaging their religious liberty crusade (and that of folks like Dreher) — they're "fifth columnists" undermining the efforts of right-leaning political and religious groups to protect religious liberty. His conclusion:
If Haselberger is telling the truth, it staggers the mind to think that Pope Francis — who has the right to remove Nienstedt — tolerates this man remaining in charge a single day longer. Then again, Bishop Finn still rules in Kansas City, and according to a comprehensive report done by BishopAccountability.org, the pope had a poor record on responding to abuse as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
As a non-Catholic, I read this story, and think about how religious liberty in this country is now under assault, especially how right here in Louisiana, the seal of the confessional is severely threatened by ongoing litigation. And I think about how the archbishops of Minneapolis-St. Paul have behaved, saying one thing to reassure the public, but in fact behaving in exactly the opposite way, doing whatever they could to protect the clericalist mafia, and to marginalize Catholics like Jennifer Haselberger, who only wanted the Church to be the Church. I think about how the archdiocese appointed a priest who — if Haselberger is telling the truth (and as chancellor, had access to his personnel file) — had used the confessional as a way to facilitate an adulterous relationship.
I think of this, and it is not hard for me to understand why people have so little sympathy for religious liberty claims. They believe religious liberty is an excuse to let cretins like Archbishop Nienstedt and his minions get away with serving themselves, their careers, and their perverse sexual appetites. Just yesterday, I was speaking to a Protestant friend about the seal of the confessional controversy, and he said something to the effect of, "In this environment, there’s no way people are going to be predisposed to support the Church on this."
He's right. In the present and future war on religious liberty — a war that affects all religious believers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike — the US Catholic hierarchy all too often behaves like a fifth column.
I can hardly express how discouraging all this.
And though I agree with Dreher about almost nothing at all, I think he's right to make this judgment. (I also found it amazing to read him reporting something Haselberger says in her affidavit that I missed in my own reading of it: namely, that the point at which Haselberger became convinced Nienstedt must resign was when she was told that the investigators now looking into allegations that Nienstedt has had inappropriate sexual relationships with other men including priests and seminarians are investigation allegations that Nienstedt had a previous sexual relationship with Father Curtis Wehmeyer — whose sordid history I discussed here several days ago).
P.S. I'm grateful to Dennis Coday and his "Morning Briefing" column at National Catholic Reporter for the link to Dreher's statement.