Twin Cities archbishop denies touching minor

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down from public ministry while police investigate an allegation that he improperly touched a boy during a public photo session four years ago, an accusation he strongly denies.

The announcement is the latest blow to an archdiocese that has faced intense scrutiny since a former employee went public with claims that church leaders mishandled sexual abuse allegations.

In a letter posted on the archdiocese’s website, Nienstedt said he is accused of touching the boy on the buttocks during a photo session following a confirmation ceremony in 2009. Confirmation is a Roman Catholic sacrament during which people confirm their faith. The church considers people who have gone through the process to be responsible for their own spiritual growth.

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Nienstedt said he learned of the accusation over the weekend and doesn’t know who is making the claim.

“I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false,” Nienstedt wrote. “I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor.”

Nienstedt had already been facing public calls for his resignation. In recent months, police have launched investigations into several abuse claims and Nienstedt’s top deputy stepped down.