Minn. Archbishop Nienstedt defends pope against abuse coverup accusations

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Bishop John Nienstedt
Rev. John Nienstedt in a 2007 MPR file photo.
MPR Photo/Greta Cunningham

The archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis says he believes it's "misguided and unfair" to suggest Pope Benedict XVI was involved in attempts to conceal sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

In his weekly column in the archdiocese's newspaper, the Rev. John Nienstedt writes that prior to becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a leader in getting to the bottom of the crisis and helping American church leaders after a wave of abuse scandals.

Nienstedt writes that sexual molestation is indefensible. He says "the Catholic Church in this country has worked harder than any other organization ... to put into place measures to protect young people."

Critics of the church's handling of abuse cases cite Benedict's tenure as head of the Vatican office charged with disciplining clergy. Critics claim the office halted a mid-1990s investigation into a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys.

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