Monday, July 21, 2014

New Minnesota NPR Report on Cover-up in St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese: "Nienstedt Chose Not to Reveal the Cover-Up. Instead, He Contributed to It"

Not to be missed: Madeleine Baran's stellar four-part series "Betrayed by Silence" published today at the website of Minnesota NPR. Baran does an outstanding job of showing how deep-seated the cover-up of clerical crimes against children is in the Catholic archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, despite repeated assertions of one archbishop after another that the archdiocese was exemplary in its handling of cases of molestation of minors by priests. Here's an excerpt from the final chapter of the four-part series, speaking of the arrival of John Nienstedt in 2007 as archbishop:

The new archbishop exuded self-control. At age 61, 6 feet tall, trim, with perfect posture, Nienstedt kept his black clerical outfit spotless and his short gray hair neatly trimmed. When he walked into a room, he expected everyone to stand. 
Nienstedt told a reporter that he would work to establish trust with priests, restructure the chancery and reduce the archdiocese's debt. 
But the archbishop would soon encounter a situation more troubling than financial debt. He had walked into an archdiocese that was nearly three decades into a cover-up of clergy sexual abuse. 
Nienstedt would later claim that he was "blindsided" in the fall of 2013 by an MPR News investigation that showed top church leaders had covered up abuse for decades. 
"When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole question of clerical sexual abuse had been taken care of, I didn't have to worry about it," Nienstedt told reporters in December. "Unfortunately, I believed that." 
However, hundreds of memos and dozens of interviews show that, within weeks of his arrival, Nienstedt learned that his predecessors had violated Vatican rules on clergy sexual abuse cases and hadn't reported abuse to police. He also learned that the archdiocese had ignored Vatican rules on church finances. 
Nienstedt chose not to reveal the cover-up. Instead, he contributed to it.

We now know much more of this story, of course, due to the courage of the former chancellor of the archdiocese Jennifer Haselberger in telling it publicly. As Mark Silk notes today at his Spiritual Politics site, Haselberger's recent affidavit "ought to be sounding alarms throughout the length and breadth of the Roman Catholic hierarchy," since what it has done is effectively "to call into question the efficacy of the procedures the American church has put into place to assure the faithful and society at large that it is successfully dealing with the sexual abuse of minors by priests."

And so the U.S. Catholic hierarchy should, one would hope, be rousing itself from its slumber, Silk concludes, though he's not optimistic that this is what's going to happen short of concerted pressure from the Vatican. The USCCB has, after all, more important matters to attend to right now, like the "unprecedented and extreme" step the president took today to protect federally LGBT contracted workers from discrimination.

The graphic is from the Flickr photo stream of Jared Rodriguez of Truthout, and is available for sharing through Creative Commons license.

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