Demonstrators call for Nienstedt's resignation

A call for Niensted't resignation
Scheck Greg Hagen of Woodbury and Paul Mandell of Inver Grove Heights were among a group of about 100 people who protested outside of the offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The group is calling for Archbishop John Nienstedt to resign.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

About 100 people gathered outside the Cathedral of St. Paul Saturday to urge Archbishop John Nienstedt to resign.

The group, which was made up of victims of clergy sex abuse and others calling for greater transparency in the Catholic Church, marched outside of Nienstedt's office. Some held signs calling for Nienstedt to step down.

Demonstrators criticized Nienstedt's handling of alleged sexual misconduct by priests, his support for a failed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and the decision by church leaders to make extra payments to priests who have sexually abused children.

Shawn Plocher of Minneapolis said he was sexually abused by a priest in 1986.

"Who can you trust when you were abused by a person of God in the House of God?" said Plocher. "Something needs to change."

The protest comes after a series of MPR News reports found Nienstedt and others disregarded warnings of a priest's sexual conduct and debated internally whether another priest's computer contained child pornography. The investigation also found that several priests accused of sexually abusing minors were given extra payments after they were removed from ministry.

Virginia Meuers of Plymouth said her husband was abused by a priest.

"We have to have closure to this and I think it means that he has to leave and we have to have some new fresh air in order to bring any kind of healing," she said.

Nienstedt, who is attending a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore, released a written statement in response to the protest.

"It is my most sincere hope that the commitments and actions that my leadership team and I are taking, and will continue to take, will restore trust with our communities," Nienstedt wrote. "We take these matters very seriously and will continue to share more information in the coming weeks regarding our actions to create and maintain safe environments. Nothing is more important."

Nienstedt has authorized an task force to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The archdiocese says the group, appointed by the Rev. Reginald Whitt, will work independently of the archdiocese. But there is some question as to whether the group will have full access to all of the clergy files. Nienstedt also says he intends to hire an outside firm to examine whether any priests in ministry pose a danger to children. The firm has not been hired yet.

Several Catholics are also stepping up to defend Nienstedt. Lorena Dillon of Bloomington says she believes Nienstedt is taking the appropriate steps to safeguard children.

"I think he's done a lot of encouraging things," Dillon said of Nienstedt's decision to ask outside groups to examine the clergy files. "That's very telling of someone who is saying 'Look I recognize that there are problems. I recognize that something is going on. I want to be completely forthcoming here.'"

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.