Police: Archdiocese not cooperating with clergy abuse investigation

Chief Tom Smith
St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith addresses reporters at a news conference Dec. 17, 2013, to discuss investigations into clergy abuse and allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is not cooperating with an ongoing criminal investigation into clergy sexual abuse.

Smith said the former top church deputy, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, has refused to talk to police.

The chief made his remarks at a news conference about a separate allegation that Archbishop John Nienstedt inappropriately touched a minor in 2009.

Smith expressed frustration at being unable to talk to archdiocese staff.

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"It's never good enough when someone tells us no," Smith said. "And as of right now, except for attorneys, and being told no in a specific instance on the investigations before the allegations today, we have not been successful."

Smith said the department wrote to Nienstedt to meet with clergy officials. They have a meeting with an archdiocese attorney Wednesday.

In a statement released after the news conference, archdiocese officials said they hope to better understand police requests for information at Wednesday's meeting.

"Although we cannot speak for Fr. McDonough and his choice not to speak with the police," the statement said. "As we have stated repeatedly, the archdiocese seeks to cooperate with the police and all civil authorities."

• Related: Under investigation for allegedly touching boy, Archbishop Nienstedt steps aside

Police began their investigation into Nienstedt Monday afternoon after the archdiocese encouraged a person within the church who is required by law to report allegations of abuse to contact authorities. In a statement Tuesday morning, archdiocese officials said they learned of the allegation from that person.

The boy is a minor, according to the statement.

"The single incident is alleged to have occurred in 2009 during a group photography session with the archbishop following a confirmation ceremony," the statement said.

In a letter to Twin Cities Catholics posted Tuesday on the archdiocese's website, Nienstedt denied the accusation.

"I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false," the archbishop wrote. "I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor."

Nienstedt said he learned of the accusation last weekend.

Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche will assume the archbishop's public duties during the investigation, according to the statement.