Archbishop John Nienstedt has “stepped aside from his responsibilities” at the Napa Institute, the Irvine, California-based organization announced Aug. 15.
According to the institute, since 2016 Archbishop Nienstedt had been an independent contractor with the Napa Institute, where he edited its conference proceedings for publication, celebrated Masses and participated in its annual conference. The institute said it had been advised that there are no restrictions on Archbishop Nienstedt’s ministry.
Archbishop Nienstedt’s connections to the Napa Institute drew criticism from The American Conservative magazine senior editor Rod Dreher, who on his blog Aug. 6 accused the institute of being inconsistent in its stance against bishops accused of mishandling sexual abuse.
The institute’s founder, Timothy Busch, published an article titled “Our Great Commission: The Call of the Laity to Holiness & Reform in Times of Scandal” which, in light of the credible abuse and sexual misconduct allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, said the institute would be “turning our attention toward the appropriate and authentic response to the reform necessary in the Church.”
Dreher said that the Institute could not do that credibly while retaining connections to Archbishop Nienstedt, who resigned as the leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis along with Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché in June 2015. Their resignations followed the filing of criminal and civil charges by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office against the archdiocese in its handling of sexual abuse perpetrated by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer in 2008-2011.
As Dreher highlighted, Archbishop Nienstedt was also the focus of a sexual misconduct investigation he commissioned in 2014 following allegations about his time as a priest and bishop of Detroit and New Ulm. The investigation’s report, as well as a report from a follow-up investigation, was submitted to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, then the U.S. papal representative.
Archbishop Nienstedt, who became archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2008, has maintained that the allegations of sexual misconduct are false. In an August 2016 statement to The Catholic Spirit following the release of documents related to the Ramsey County Attorney’s investigation into the archdiocese, he said that he believes “that the allegations have been made as a personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage.”
He also said that he was “sorry for the way the archdiocese, under my leadership, addressed the allegations against Curtis Wehmeyer. As the archbishop, I should have asked more questions, I should have demanded more answers, and I should have insisted those within the archdiocesan administration at the time share more information with each other.”
In its Aug. 15 statement, the Napa Institute said that Archbishop Nienstedt’s leaving was “in light of the Napa Institute’s efforts to promote a faithful lay-led reform.”
Full story at The Catholic Spirit.