Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is a difficult letter for me to write to you. This past weekend I learned of an allegation from a young man whom I anointed in the Sacrament of Confirmation who alleged that he believes I inappropriately touched his buttocks during a public photo session following the ceremony. Please allow me to say that I normally stand for those photos with one hand on my crozier (staff) and the other either on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed or on my pallium (the short stole), which hangs from my chest. I do that deliberately and there are hundreds of photographs to verify that fact.
I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me. I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false. I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with whom I disagree.
I have taken strong stands on the moral teachings of the Church and been criticized for it. I would not have done so if I did not believe those teachings and was personally bound to living up to them in practice.
True, I am a sinner, but my sins do not include any kind of abuse of minors. I have met victims and I know the lasting damage that such abuse causes.
The psalms from the Liturgy of the Hours have had a special echo in my heart these past weeks as I pray for those in distress. “But God does hear the cries of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.”
I hope that the investigations can be thorough but quick. I already long to be back in public ministry—to be able to serve as the Lord has called me to serve.
I regret this will be my last column until the present investigations are complete. These days will give me the time to pray for you and the individual involved. I ask that you pray for me too.
With every good wish, I remain
Cordially Yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
State Capitol to the Cathedral of St. Paul