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Minnesota archbishop asks for forgiveness after sex abuse

Published 10:22am Monday, December 16, 2013

EDINA, Minn. — The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis asked Catholics for forgiveness Sunday, saying he’s sorry that he overlooked the issue of clergy sex abuse for too long instead of responding energetically.

Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke during two Masses at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, a large parish in suburban Minneapolis.

“I am here to apologize for the indignation that you justifiably feel,” he said. “You deserve better.”

After the early Mass, Nienstedt made a rare appearance before reporters. He would not take questions, but gave a three-minute statement. He said he was told the problem of clergy sexual misconduct was already solved when he became head of the Twin Cities archdiocese seven years ago, and that he didn’t think he needed to worry about it.

“Unfortunately I believed that and so my biggest apology today, and I did this last week at two other parishes, is to say that I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did,” Nienstedt said. “When the story started to break at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.”

Amid building public pressure, a court order, and new allegations of misconduct involving several priests that had not previously been revealed, the archdiocese earlier this month published a list of 34 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

The list included the names of eight men who had not been publicly named previously as alleged abusers. Last week, St. John’s Abbey voluntarily published the names of 18 current and former monks it said likely sexually abused minors. On Monday, the Diocese of Winona plans to release a similar list of at least 13 names under the same court order as the Twin Cities archdiocese.

Nienstedt has mostly refused media requests for interviews over the past few months and has addressed the public about the scandal main via written statements and videos posted on the archdiocese’s website.

Several parishioners said they were pleased Nienstedt addressed the issue but some said they wished he would have done it sooner.

“The archbishop spent a lot of time talking about under his watch only one issue has happened and a lot of these allegations go back to the 70s and 80s,” Troy Stelzer said. “Well, I would have run up the flag pole and let all of the light touch those items and let people draw their own conclusions and scrutinize it on their own.”

Others said his appearance will help the church heal and said they were glad he came.

“I thought it showed great leadership in the church, and I think it was unexpected that he would do that,” Larry Seymour said.

“I just wanted to tell him, thank you for coming, we really needed this,” said Evy Schneider.


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