Rocco whispered this news on his Twitter feed, and I’m perched between disappointment and acceptance on reading it.
(Archbishop John) Nienstedt quietly arrived in Michigan Jan. 6 to help St. Philip pastor Rev. John Fleckenstein, who has been ill, an arrangement made between the two of them, long-time friends.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo had OKed Nienstedt’s work here, saying it had received documentation from his superiors that he was a priest in good standing and had no pending allegations against him.
Media attention to Nienstedt’s new location from mainstrean and Catholic media was swift and far-reaching.
The article cites Fr Fleckenstein describing his parish’s reaction as an “uproar.” Was that surprising? There is no documentation for poor administration in the Church. Among clergy, only sexual behavior. It doesn’t seem adequate that we can rely on paperwork to the exclusion of the virtue of discernment.
On the other hand, the archbishop’s fault was not with his sexual behavior, but with his administrative ability. It seems clear nobody would trust him to serve as a pastor. But that role is not quite congruent to being a priest. Where do bishops and clergy who have shuffled predators serve? In monasteries? Chanceries? Who gets to supervise them? Abbots? Lay persons? I’m not convinced that all misbehaving clergy, including bishops, should be shut out of ministry. But what is acceptable to communities who are still in pain over betrayal?