Archdiocese hires criminal defense attorney in Nienstedt investigation

By Jean Hopfensperger

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to continue its investigation into possible sexual misconduct by Archbishop John Nienstedt.

Nienstedt02Attorney Peter Wold has been retained to continue the investigation completed by the Greene Espel law firm in July, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché confirmed Monday.

Wold has met with at least one man — previously unidentified in the media — who filed affidavits in the misconduct investigation earlier this year.

Joel Cycenas, a former archdiocese priest and former friend of Nienstedt’s, acknowledged he met with Wold last week. He had some concerns.

“I met with him [Wold] and they are trying to discredit my own affidavit,” wrote Cycenas in an e-mail. “I don’t get it.”

Cycenas would not provide details about the content of his affidavit or answer further questions.

Interviewed last summer, Nienstedt denied any sexual impropriety with Cycenas.

Wold was retained “to help with some remaining details” in the Nienstedt investigation, said Piché in a written statement. The results of the initial investigation were not made public. Details of the current investigation also were not forthcoming.

“It would be a disservice to those involved to discuss any more of the specifics of the investigation while it is ongoing,” said Piché.joel cycenas

About 10 men have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by Nien­stedt while they were seminarians or priests, said Jennifer Haselberger, an archdiocese whistleblower who was interviewed by Greene Espel.

She said the archbishop also was accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct. The allegations appear to stem as far back as the 1980s and 1990s, when Nienstedt was working in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Cycenas, a 47-year-old from the Forest Lake area, was among those interviewed by Greene Espel. Ordained in 2000, he became a parish priest at Holy Spirit Church in St. Paul several years later.

Nienstedt acknowledged last summer that the two were once good friends, and that they met while he was bishop of the New Ulm Diocese.

“We were very good friends at one point,” said Nienstedt. “We met at World Youth Day in Toronto [in 2002]. …

“We went to the State Fair together,” said Nienstedt. “Oftentimes I would stay at his rectory at Holy Spirit when I was coming up [from the New Ulm Diocese] to fly out the next morning.”

Jennifer HaselbergerThe friendship dissolved after Cycenas left the priesthood in 2009, Nienstedt said.

Cycenas now works as an outreach manager for a major Twin Cities nonprofit.

Haselberger said she was surprised the archdiocese has hired another lawyer to investigate the allegations.

“My impression was they [Greene Espel] were very consciously and diligently making efforts to get to the truth of the matter under very difficult circumstances,” she said.

“Why would they investigate again?” Haselberger asked. “I hope it won’t be an attempt to slander the victims, which would be a poor reward for coming forth.”

Haselberger also was concerned about the financial implications for the archdiocese, which is laying off staff and floating the possibility of bankruptcy. “Maybe their insurance is paying for it, who knows?” she said. “I’d like to know, ‘What are they hoping to accomplish?’ ”

Piché did not respond to written questions about the exact nature of Wold’s work, including the difference between Wold’s investigation and the previous one. However, he did note that none of the allegations against Nien­stedt involved children or criminal activity with an adult.

Complete Article HERE!

Not So Fast, Salvation Army!

By Graham Gremore

Forget what you’ve heard in the very recent past, the Salvation Army wants everyone to know that it does not discriminate against gay people.salvation-army-bell

The website for the Salvation Army in Central Ohio currently features a video defending the charity’s past treatment of the LGBT community.

Under the headline “Salvation Army Open to All,” the video addresses what the Christian social-welfare organization calls “inaccurate claims.”

“Rumors have been leading some to believe that the Salvation Army does not serve members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community,” it says. “These accusations simply aren’t true.”

The only problem? The rumors aren’t rumors. The accusations are true. The Salvation Army has a very long and colorful history of opposing equal rights for LGBT people, and no amount of heart-wrenching YouTube videos are going to make us forget that.

Earlier this year, the organization denied shelter to a trans woman in Texas who was forced to flee her home after receiving death threats. And last winter, it included links to “ex-gay” organizations on its website. Then there was that incident in 2012 when the Andrew Craibe, the Salvation Army’s Media Director in Australia, said gay people should be “put to death.”

But, hey, all that is water under the bridge, right?

“For the past few years during the holiday season, a lot of chatter on social media was saying the Salvation Army was antigay and discriminates against people in the LGBT community,” said national spokesperson Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe. “I felt we needed to be proactive on this.”

He continued: “My concern is that we need to make sure that people aren’t reading things on the Internet or through social media and thinking that must be true.”

Like, for instance, Busroe’s comments.

Related stories:

Don’t Fall For the Salvation Army’s PR Spin! They’re Still Super Antigay

Berkeley Student Council Wants Anti-Gay Salvation Army Booted From Campus

Remember To Ignore The Salvation Army Bell Ringers This Holiday Season

Complete Article HERE!

Gay Catholic Music Director Files Discrimination Complaint Against Church For Unfair Termination

by Jack Jenkins

Colin Collette, a gay man, worked as the music director of Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness, Illinois for 17 years, preparing songs for worship and orchestrating liturgy for weekly services. When Illinois embraced marriage equality in June, Collete and William Nifong, his partner of five years, celebrated a month later by getting engaged in Rome “in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica” and quickly announcing their betrothal on Facebook.

Instead of congratulating the couple on their upcoming nuptials, however, the priest at Holy Family responded by immediately asking for Collette’s resignation, saying his homosexuality violated tenets of the Catholic Church. When Collette refused, he was promptly fired.Colin-Collette-x400

“’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the policy in the [Catholic] church,” Collette told ABC 7, a local news affiliate, in August. “I guess as long as you’re willing to live the lie, you’re safe.”

The church’s decision outraged many in the suburban parish, several of whom have held prayer vigils and voiced public support for their former music director. On Thursday, however, Collette took the matter to court, filing a federal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The move is a preliminary step towards filing a formal lawsuit; if the EEOC agrees with Collete’s complaint, it can either grant him the right to sue his former employer or even sue the church on his behalf.

“It is with deep regret that I have had to pursue this course of action,” Collette said in a press conference on Thursday. “I have chosen to enter into a marriage, as is my right under Illinois law, and perhaps I can open the door to other men and women who the church has chosen to exclude from the community.”

Collette, who holds a Masters in Divinity, named Holy Family’s priest and a parish manager in his complaint, saying his firing amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and marital status. He also contended that his employer was well aware of both his homosexuality and his relationship with Nifong before he was let go, as the two were active members of the community.

“Our pastor knows both of us,“ Collette told the Chicago Tribune. “We’ve been to many social functions together, including the 20th anniversary of the parish.”

Collete’s complaint challenges the unusually broad power afforded to religious institutions to dictate who they hire. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that faith-based employers are allowed to hire and fire people for reasons that would otherwise be discriminatory because of a so-called “ministerial exception.” Although they are still technically subject to anti-discrimination policies, religious groups effectively have full control over “ministry” positions, a broadly-defined classification that extends beyond ordained clergy.

The case also poses a public test to the newly-appointed Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé Cupich. When Pope Francis tapped the former Bishop of Washington for the illustrious position in September, left-leaning progressives lauded the decision as a progressive step, citing Cupich’s passionate support for immigration reform and his willingness to condemn anti-gay bullying as “hateful and disrespectful” to “human dignity.” But while Cupich is far more progressive than Cardinal Francis George, his predecessor compared organizers of the Chicago Pride Parade to the Ku Klux Klan, he has not shown a willingness to break from traditional Catholic understandings of sexuality: Cupich openly opposed Washington state’s 2012 vote to embrace marriage equality, and has yet to respond to Collete’s complaint.

Collette’s filing is part of a growing number of LGBT people who are fighting back against the Catholic Church for firing people based on their sexuality. Colleen Simon, a Catholic food pantry worker in Kansas City, Missouri, who was fired in May for being gay, is suing the local diocese, saying they were aware of her orientation before her job was terminated. Meanwhile, several Catholic schoolteachers in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are refusing to sign a new contract that reclassifies teachers as ministers and asks them to “refrain from any conduct or lifestyle” that is “in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals.”

Complete Article HERE!

Thus Saith The Lord

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Female clerics coached for bishop selection as Church of England prepares for historic change

Archbishops of Canterbury and York set to sign women bishops legislation into law in front of General Synod

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By John Bingham
A string of senior female priests have been given special training to put them in prime position to become bishops in the Church of England when a historic change in canon law comes into force, the cleric who oversaw the process has disclosed.

The Rt Rev James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester, said there had been a major push to ensure that any female candidates interviewed for vacant sees in the coming months have the same chance as their male counterparts, some of whom may have been preparing for the process for years.

The decades-long campaign to open up the most senior positions in the Established Church to women will reach its conclusion when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York formally sign the change into law in front of the ruling General Synod in London on Monday

Members will also be asked to signal their approval in a show of hands for the legislation which they passed overwhelmingly in July and which has already received Royal Assent.

The first female bishops in England could be appointed before the end of this year if a handful of dioceses with vacancies for junior bishops – known as suffragans – move quickly. The timing has even led to speculation of a race to be the first.

 

The process of selecting the most senior bishops, those in charge of dioceses, involves a more lengthy process meaning that the first female diocesan bishop is unlikely to be announced before the New Year.

Yesterday Ladbrokes, the bookmaker, installed the Very Rev Jane Hedges, the Dean of Norwich, as favourite to become the first female bishop at odds of three to one.

The Church’s most senior lay official, the Secretary General William Fittall, told a Parliamentary committee in July that in cases where there was a tie between two equal candidates of opposite sexes, selection panels would be able to use a form of positive discrimination.

Bishop Langstaff, who was responsible for successfully steering the women bishops legislation through the Synod, disclosed that female would-be candidates had been given extra training to ensure they are as well prepared as men who may already have been through the process.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “What we are doing is some affirmative action rather than discrimination in that some real efforts have been made and are being made to make sure that those women who now may be candidates are able to be, as it were, on the level with their male colleagues who have been looking at this for some time.

“Therefore developing women for senior leadership has been a strand which has been given attention for some months now, indeed for longer.

“It is important that women who are interviewed for these posts are able to be considered absolutely on the level with their male colleagues.”

The most senior diocesan bishoprics usually go to candidates who already have experience of the episcopate having served as suffragans.

But Bishop Langstaff said there was no reason female candidates could not jump straight into one of the more senior roles after the law changes. Three years ago the then Dean of Liverpool, Justin Welby, was announced as the new Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior post in the Church. He was in the role for only around a year when he was called to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury.

“Just as it is possible for men in the past to go straight from being vicars of parishes or from other roles in cathedrals to being a diocesan bishop there is no theoretical reason at all why a woman shouldn’t,” said Bishop Langstaff.

“We have got some very very experienced, very spiritual women in senior posts so it is not impossible.”

Complete Article HERE!

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