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Nienstedt Sunday homily: Catholic bishops have failed

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Archbishop John Nienstedt bows his head during the opening of the U.S. Conference of Bishops' 2002 meeting in Dallas.
RICK WILKING/AP

Archbishop John Nienstedt, in a homily he plans to deliver this weekend, says Catholic bishops have failed in their response to the clergy abuse crisis.

"The negative news reports about past incidents of clerical sexual abuse in this local Church have rightly been met with shame, embarrassment and outrage that such heinous acts could be perpetrated by men who had taken priestly vows as well as bishops who failed to remove them from ministry," Nienstedt wrote in the homily, which was sent in advance to clergy throughout the archdiocese.

• MPR News investigation: Archdiocese under scrutiny

The archbishop plans to deliver the homily during Mass at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Parish in Edina this Sunday.

Nienstedt did not say which bishops failed to remove abusive priests. An MPR News investigation in September found that Nienstedt assigned the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer to a parish despite his sexual misbehavior and interest in younger men. Wehmeyer is now in prison for sexually abusing two boys.

Nienstedt replaced archbishop Harry Flynn as leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2008. MPR News reports also revealed that decisions made by Flynn and his predecessor, Archbishop John Roach, protected abusive priests during their tenures.

The Twin Cities archbishop has made few public appearances since the scandal broke and has refused to talk to reporters. Frustrated priests have urged Nienstedt to visit churches and minister to parishioners who are upset by the failure of top leaders to report alleged sex crimes to police. 

In his prepared remarks for Sunday's homily, Nienstedt apologized to parishioners "for the indignation that you justifiably feel. You deserve better."

However, he defended his response to the crisis.

Most of the abuse took place decades ago, he said. "Again, that is not to excuse those actions or diminish the harm done to their victims. But it does indicate that progress is being made in reducing the incidence of such terrible misconduct."

"There is reason, even now," he added, "to be hopeful."