The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop John Nienstedt, will return to his public ministry after being cleared of allegations that he touched a youth inappropriately during the taking of a confirmation picture, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis officially announced yesterday. The authorities investigating the case have said that they deem it highly unlikely that Archbishop Nienstedt could have done what he was accused of doing with so many members of the clergy, parents, parishioners, and visitors present and no one noticing.
"It seems unlikely that the Archbishop … would pick that moment to sexually touch a random boy openly in front of another clergy member, a deacon, and numerous other confirmands while the confirmands’ family members were preparing to document the moment in photographs,” Ramsey County Attorney Richard Dusterhoft told Catholic News Agency, “it appears from the photograph that the Archbishop would have to bend to reach the male’s buttocks and that any such action would have likely been witnessed by others present.”
In an official statement, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said that the see “appreciates today’s announcement by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that they have declined to file charges against Archbishop Nienstedt. As a result of today’s announcement, the archbishop will now resume all of his public ministry duties.” The Archbishop has maintained his own innocence from the beginning of the allegation, and voluntarily recused himself from public ministry on his own authority as Archbishop while the investigation was underway. “While I look forward to my return to public ministry, I remain committed to the ongoing work needed to provide safe environments for all children and youth,” Archbishop Nienstedt was quoted as saying in the statement,“I continue to offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities, as well as to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. I once again offer my apology to all who have been affected by these terrible offenses.”The Archdiocese of St. Paul recently released the names of 30 priests under its authority who had been accused of sexual abuse over the years, many of whom have now died.
The apparently-false allegation against Archbishop Nienstedt also marks an unsettling new trend of false allegations being made against members of the Catholic clergy because in the case of sexual abuse, the clerics are now often viewed as guilty by the larger public whether the allegations are true or not.