Nienstedt denies any clergy sexual abuse cover-up, regrets ‘lost confidence’

File under: Same Old Story — Archbishop thinks gay marriage bigger threat than sexually abusive priests


by Madeleine Baran

Archbishop John Nienstedt said he accepts responsibility for addressing the unfolding clergy sexual abuse crisis and regrets that a growing number of parishioners and priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have “lost confidence” in him.


However, he denied any abuse cover-up or illegal actions and repeated the archdiocese’s claim that there are no offending priests in active ministry.

Nienstedt’s remarks came in an e-mailed response to questions from MPR News. It’s the first time the archbishop has answered questions about the scandal since MPR News began publishing investigative reports in late September.

“As head of this local Church, I accept responsibility for addressing the issues that have been raised and am completely committed to finding the truth and fixing the problems that exist,” Nienstedt wrote. “My highest priorities are to ensure the safety of our children and to restore the trust of Catholics and our clergy. I will do everything in my power to do so.”

An MPR News investigation found Nienstedt and other top church officials failed to warn parishioners of a priest’s sexual addiction. That priest, the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, is serving five years in prison for sexually abusing two children and possessing child pornography.

Subsequent reports showed the archdiocese kept “borderline illegal” pornography found on the computer of the Rev. Jon Shelley in 2004 and gave extra payments to priests who sexually abused children.

In the Shelley case, police first learned of the images this year when Jennifer Haselberger, a canon lawyer who resigned in April, called authorities. The subsequent police investigation did not find child pornography, though the lead investigator questioned whether the archdiocese turned over all the evidence. St. Paul Police recently reopened the case.

Nienstedt continues to decline interview requests, even as some parishioners and priests now call for his resignation.

Nienstedt’s top deputy, the Rev. Peter Laird, stepped down as vicar general of the archdiocese on Oct. 3. Former Archbishop Harry Flynn resigned as chair of the board of trustees at the University of St. Thomas on Oct. 17.

The departures follow the exit of the Rev. Kevin McDonough as head of the archdiocese’s child safety program last month. McDonough played a central role in clergy sexual abuse cases as vicar general under Flynn and former Archbishop John Roach.

Nienstedt, who replaced Flynn in 2008, said the archdiocese may have violated its own procedures in handling abuse cases.

Retired Roman Catholic Priest Weds Gay N.J. Couples; He’ll Marry Partner Too

The Rev. Tom Pivinski helped Asbury Park greet marriage equality by performing ceremonies for three same-sex couples this morning, and he and his long-term male partner have taken out a license as well.



The Roman Catholic Church may not accept same-sex marriage, but one of its retired priests was happy to perform ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples in Asbury Park, N.J., as marriage equality became law in the state today. And he intends to marry his same-sex partner as well.

Reverend-Tom-PivinskiThe Rev. Tom Pivinski, who now works with an Episcopal church in Asbury Park, officiated vows for three couples on the steps of the Paramount Theater in the beach community shortly after midnight, the Asbury Park Press reports. One of the couples he wed, Karen Nicholson-McFadden and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to marriage equality in New Jersey. He also performed a joint ceremony for City Council member Amy Quinn and her partner, Heather Jensen, and for Steven Brunner and Daniel Baum.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Pivinski told the Press. “I am just very grateful that the state has recognized the equality of all people.” Pivinski and his longtime partner, Malcolm Navias, applied for a license Friday with the intention of marrying today, according to another local news outlet, the Asbury Park Sun.

Same-sex marriages became possible in New Jersey after the state Supreme Court Friday refused to delay a lower court judge’s ruling that such marriages should begin today. The court was to hear Gov. Chris Christie’s appeal of the ruling in January, but this morning Christie dropped the appeal.

Complete Article HERE!

Bourgeois disinvited from SNAP Philadelphia fundraiser

Shame, Shame, Shame on SNAP!


By Tom Roberts

Roy Bourgeois, a former Maryknoll priest, has been disinvited from a Philadelphia-area fundraising event for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) because some members of the organization feared he would use the event to advance the cause of women’s ordination.

“It was a Blaine screw-up,” said Barbara Blaine, SNAP’s Chicago-based president, in a phone interview with NCR. “I invited someone without checking with the local membership.”

roy_bourgeoisBourgeois, who received a letter in 2008 stating he had incurred his own excommunication for his advocacy of women’s ordination, including participation in a women’s ordination ceremony, was supposed to be part of a panel discussion with Blaine and Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a longtime advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary of Detroit who openly supports SNAP and attends its annual gatherings, was also to take part in the panel.

The fundraiser, hosted by the Philadelphia-area Voice of the Faithful group and scheduled for the evening of Oct. 21* in Plymouth Meeting, Penn., is being held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of SNAP’s founding.

Blaine said she invited Bourgeois without consulting the Philadelphia-area SNAP membership and said some in the area voiced concern that the group not be perceived as allowing its events to be used to foster any agenda other than support of victims of abuse. She dismissed rumors that Voice of the Faithful, another group supportive of victims, or Gumbleton objected to Bourgeois’ appearance.

Gumbleton told NCR on Wednesday he did not understand why Bourgeois had been invited to attend the SNAP event.

“It would seem very strange to me to have a fundraiser for SNAP in which you bring in the issue of women’s ordination,” he said. “It’s a very single-minded organization. And I think that would be one of its strengths.”

Doyle said in a separate NCR interview that he had earlier informed Blaine that a prior commitment that was postponed had been rescheduled, and he would be unable to attend the event. But he added he was “very disappointed with SNAP” for disinviting Bourgeois and said he would have considered withdrawing his participation because of it.

Doyle, a civil and canon lawyer, represented Bourgeois in his dealings with the Vatican and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers after Bourgeois was disciplined for supporting women’s ordination.

He said while he understands SNAP’s desire not to have its platform used for political purposes, he said Bourgeois “has some outstandingly prophetic points he could have made. He could have brought something very interesting to the discussion about what this whole picture might have been like had there been women in the clergy. He suffered greatly for his beliefs and his conscience. He stood up for what’s right and I think he needs to be listened to.”

Bourgeois told NCR in a phone interview he was “disappointed and baffled” by his dis-invitation. He said he “rearranged my plans to attend a fundraising event for an organization which I hold in high regard. Then came the disinviting.”

“I was going there to support that organization and their cause,” he said, “not to talk about women’s ordination.”

At the same time, he said, “I really believe that if we had had women in the clergy all along, we wouldn’t have a need for this fundraiser because they never would have covered up for the old boys’ club.”

Bourgeois, who is on the road almost weekly giving talks opposing U.S. militarism and supporting women’s ordination, said when the Vatican excommunicated him, church officials accused him of causing scandal.

“I always say, ‘Over 5,000 priests in the United States have sexually abused or raped more than 12,000 children. When Catholics hear the word “scandal,” they don’t think about women’s ordination. They think of priests who abused children and bishops who covered it up.’ ”

Complete Article HERE!

Finance scandal spurs German bishops to reveal secret funds

File under: Follow the money! Truth is, all bishops have huge slush funds and these guys are showing us only what they want us to see.



By Tom Heneghan

German Catholic bishops are scrapping centuries of secrecy and reporting the value of their private endowments as a scandal caused by a free-spending prelate puts pressure on them for more financial transparency.

Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst – dubbed “the luxury bishop” – has shocked the Church by admitting six-fold cost overruns on construction of his luxurious new residence, which is now priced at 31 million euros, most of which will be paid from his ample reserves.

She's got the bling!
She’s got the bling!

His lavish spending clashes with the humble style of Pope Francis, who urges bishops to turn away from wealth and pomp and get closer to the faithful. Francis has also promised to clean up the murky finances of the Vatican’s own bank.

The Limburg scandal has also prompted worried German Catholics to ask what their dioceses were doing.

“We take these concerns very seriously,” Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer said in a communique revealing his 46.5 million euro reserve.

German dioceses have secret reserves called the “bishop’s chair” known only to the bishop and a few advisors. Run as a diocesan nest egg and source of funds for special projects, they are not taxed and not listed in the annual balance sheets.

In some older dioceses, “bishop’s chair” reserves include age-old property holdings, donations from former princely rulers and funds from German states over the past two centuries. Their make-up and value vary widely from diocese to diocese.


Cologne, the largest and reportedly richest diocese in Europe, announced on Tuesday “in connection with the current discussion about Church finances” that its archbishop had reserves amounting to 166.2 million euros in 2012.

It said the 9.6 million euro earnings from its investments were, as in previous years, added to the diocesan budget of 939 milllion euros in 2012, three-quarters of which was financed by the “church tax” levied on churchgoers.

A critic of church financial secrecy, Berlin political scientist and journalist Carsten Frerk, said Cologne’s total should be about 1.1 billion euros because its large real estate investments were listed at only nominal values.

“They don’t pay tax so they don’t update their assessments,” he told Reuters. “It’s not in their interest to publish these amounts because then they wouldn’t get as many donations.”

Dioceses also had holdings in other accounts and some even have their own private banks, somewhat similar to the Vatican’s bank, so their full wealth is hard to calculate, he added.

Cologne diocesan officials were not immediately available for comment. Cathedral Provost Rev Norbert Feldhoff told the diocesan radio station it would be hard to explain some aspects of Church finances if all details are published.

“There are big sums and there are problems,” he told Domradio. “We can explain it all to experts, but it could be difficult for the average housewife in Cologne to understand.”


At least six of the country’s other 26 dioceses also opened their books, several showing much smaller “bishop’s chair” reserves but some revealing quite large amounts.

The small diocese of Trier, Germany’s oldest, had a reserve of 84 million euros and said part of its earnings went to pay damages to victims of the clerical sexual abuse scandals that rocked the German Church in recent years.

Limburg, where Tebartz-van Elst’s lavish spending has led to loud calls from priests and parishioners for his resignation, has not posted its reserves. Media reports have estimated the sum at about 100 million euros.

German dioceses have traditionally been tight-lipped about their “bishop’s chair” reserves. In 2010, 25 of the 27 dioceses refused to discuss them when asked by Der Spiegel magazine.

Last week, four of the five dioceses in North Rhine-Westphalia – including Cologne – declined to give any information to the local West German Radio station. By Tuesday, only Paderborn diocese had still not published its details.

Germany’s church tax, collected by the state and handed over to the churches, raised 5.2 billion euros for the Catholics and 4.6 billion euros for Protestants in 2012, making them major economic actors at home and abroad.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican tells bishops not to reform faster than Pope Francis does

File under: No independent thinking, thank you very much!


By Tom Heneghan

The Vatican warned bishops on Tuesday not to reform faster than Pope Francis, after a German diocese said that some divorced and remarried Catholics would now be allowed to receive communion and other sacraments.

WWLVatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi, announcing the pope would hold a special synod of bishops in October 2014 to discuss issues facing the family, said local churches that come up with their own reforms in the meantime could create confusion.

Pope Francis has indicated he could consider exceptions to a Church law that bars remarried Catholics from the sacraments because Rome considers marriage to be inviolable. Many bishops have mentioned this as a growing problem in their dioceses.

The archdiocese of Freiburg in Germany issued a guidebook on Monday for priests ministering to remarried Catholics that spelled out a way for them to express remorse for their failed first marriage and receive communion and other sacraments.

Speaking at the Vatican, Lombardi did not mention the Freiburg guidebook but stressed that Francis was working with his bishops on a reform of family issues.

“In this context, offering special pastoral solutions by individuals or local offices can risk causing confusion,” he said in a statement, stressing the importance of “conducting a journey in full communion with the Church community.”

The Argentine-born pope has shaken up the Church since his election in March by focusing more on reform and forgiveness than issues such as abortion and homosexuality, where Vatican opposition to current social trends is well known.

But he is also consulting his advisers closely, and they have stressed the reform process will take some time to complete.

Complete Article HERE!