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Nienstedt says he will continue as archbishop

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Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt joined demonstrators for a vigil and protest outside of Planned Parenthood in St. Paul in April.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Archbishop John Nienstedt, under increasing pressure to step down amid scandal, said he will continue to serve as leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In a column posted to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' website, Nienstedt acknowledged that he has been a divisive figure among Twin Cities Catholics.

"I will continue to listen to those who express concerns about my leadership," he wrote, "but I will also continue serving as I have been called to do." 

Nienstedt wrote that he has "never knowingly covered up clergy sexual abuse."

"I have always been honest with the Catholics of this local Church," he added.

"I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here."

Calls for Nienstedt's resignation, which began soon after the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in the Twin Cities last fall, have grown louder in recent weeks. The Star Tribune joined the chorus Sunday, with an editorial calling for his ouster. 

"For the sake of one of this state's most valued institutions and the Minnesotans whose lives it touches, Nienstedt's service at the archdiocese should end now," the paper wrote. The New York Times last week cited the Twin Cities archdiocese in an editorial insisting the Catholic Church make its bishops accountable for covering up clergy abuse, saying the archdiocese has "made a mockery of accountability."

Nienstedt's letter, which will also run in this weekend's edition of The Catholic Spirit newspaper, made note of his critics inside and outside the church, but said he will continue to serve as archbishop until the Vatican decides otherwise. 

"In the end, it comes down to this: 18 years ago, Pope John Paul II chose me to serve the Church as a bishop, an authentic successor of the apostles. A bishop's role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO," he wrote. "I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here." 

According to canon law, which governs the workings of the Catholic Church, a bishop cannot step down from his post. He serves at the will of the pope, and is required to lead the diocese until the pope either accepts his resignation or changes his assignment.

"The learning curve of the past 10 months has prepared my staff and me to lead this local Church through the present crisis to a much better place," Nienstedt wrote. "I regret that some have lost their confidence in me."