EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — For the first time, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis spoke with the media about the sexual abuse allegations involving priests.
“When the story started to break at the end of September, I was surprised as anybody,” Nienstedt said.
That’s part of what Archbishop John Nienstedt told reporters after he delivered the homily Sunday at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina.
Nienstedt made a rare appearance during mass and apologized to parishioners. He said parishioners “deserve better.” It follows last week’s release of a list of the names of 34 priests accused of sexually assaulting children.
The Archbishop talked to reporters for three minutes. We were told he wouldn’t answer questions. When talking about the allegations of clerical sexual abuse, he used the words shame, embarrassment and outrage.
“When I arrived here 7 years ago, the whole question of clerical sexual abuse had been taken care of. I didn’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately, I believed that,” Nienstedt said.
Nienstedt told us he overlooked the issue.
“I should have investigated it a lot more than I did,” Nienstedt said.
Nienstedt referred to all but one of the sex abuse allegations as past incidents that happened decades ago. He also acknowledged his appointment of Curtis Wehmeyer, who is in prison serving time for sexually abusing children.
“When I made him pastor, I had no idea no idea he would be a harm to children,” Nienstedt said.
Terry Colleran of Edina is a longtime parishioner at Our Lady Grace. He saw the Archbishop’s apology as a sign of progress.
“It’s hope. Hope for the future. Hope that we can get this thing behind us and we are with the archbishop. We really believe it. We think the church is on the right path,” Colleran said.
For Jim Keenan, who was sexually abused by a priest at the age of 13, it’s not enough.
“It’s not even a scratch on the surface. To me it’s a PR move. I don’t think it’s heartfelt I think it was directed by somebody else,” Keenan said.
Instead of standing in front of the church or cameras, Keenan said the Archbishop should be contacting him and the other victims.
“An apology would be great, and ownership. There is a simple solution to this whole fiasco and it’s honesty and transparency,” Keenan said.
Keenan said since the time he reported the abuse to the church more than a decade ago, he’s never heard from anyone involved in the Catholic Church.
Neinstedt told parishioners they plan reach out to the victims to help with the healing process. He also says they are hiring an outside firm to go through their files to make sure no one in the ministry is a danger to children.
On Monday, the Diocese of Winona will release a list of 13 names of priests accused of sexually abusing a child. It’s part of the same court order that forced the release of accused priests in the Twin Cities this past week.