“You Deserve Better”

A headline and a fair and honest quote from the St Paul-Minneapolis archbishop, John Nienstedt, preaching at a suburban parish in his diocese.

He also was quoted in CNS:

The negative news reports about past incidents of clerical sexual abuse in this local church have rightly been met with shame, embarrassment and outrage that such heinous acts could be perpetrated by men who had taken priestly vows as well as bishops who failed to remove them from ministry.

Wow. A bishop mentions bishops as part of the problem. CNS didn’t delve deeply into this story. At a presser in between liturgies, the archbishop passed on some blame:

When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of and I didn’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately I believed that… And so my biggest apology today is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. When the story started to break at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.

A diocesan priest who has called for his resignation, Mike Tegeder, was quoted:

He is apologizing— he’s apologizing for others’ actions. But before you apologize, you need to explain your own actions. That’s what he’s failed to do.

The problem with at least 80% of today’s American bishops is not that they’re conservative. The Church has been blessed with many conservatives leaders, fine and holy bishops.

But this batch we’ve been handed over the past ten to twenty years seems too steeped in misreading the signs of the times, and have completely missed the boat on how much the laity blame them for mishandling predators–likely far more than they blame them for the phenomenon of predators themselves.

Abusers we’ve known about for decades. Catholics have made jokes about abuse: knuckle-rapping sisters and so forth. That a sex predator could hide in the clergy until his first crime: I’d say that’s still on the bishop. But my sisters and brothers in the laity are more forgiving on that score.

But American bishops from the top of the crop–the big city red hats in New York, Chicago, and LA–to the lowliest Rigali protégé have repeatedly shown themselves not only ignorant of the insidious nature of sex addiction, but part of the network of groomed allies and in some cases tragically unwilling to receive the sound input of their own clergy and laity.

We don’t mind that they’ve been hoodwinked by a perpetrator. That could happen to any of us. Two problems beset the bishops today. The guilty ones cover up crimes. And every bishop is tainted because there is a not-unreasonable doubt that any of them could be covering up something very bad.

The Msgr Lynn trial in Philadelphia showed that today’s diocese is more than willing to throw a retired bishop, especially a dead one, under the bus. Archbishop Nienstedt sure doesn’t seem to think highly of his predecessors, does he?

We deserve better bishops.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to “You Deserve Better”

  1. Liam says:

    Well, now there’s a new wrinkle with Nienstedt. I hope the allegation is untrue, but he has done the right thing in removing himself from public ministry while it gets sorted out.

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