MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – St. Paul police met with a top official from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Wednesday as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The meeting comes a day after an explosive allegation against Archbishop John Nienstedt, who’s since agreed to step aside until the investigation is complete.
The meeting was also a response to a public claim by St. Paul police that the archdiocese is not cooperating with abuse investigations.
In a brief statement on Twitter, St. Paul police said Wednesday afternoon that officials of the archdiocese answered some police questions and agreed to meet again to answer other questions.
Charles Reid, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas and an expert on church law, says the church needs to be transparent.
“It is important that the archdiocese not only cooperates, but appear to cooperate,” he said.
The archdiocese said the Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, the newly appointed vicar general, would be at Wednesday’s meeting. But it’s not clear how much Lachowitzer knows about the allegations of misconduct that go back decades. He was named vicar general only two months ago.
St. Paul police say they are currently investigating several cases of clergy abuse, including one accusation against Nienstedt.
A mandated reporter came forward just last week to report the archbishop had inappropriately touched a boy during a 2009 group photo shoot. The role of the mandated reporter has not been made public.
“They could include teachers, they include principals, they could include school psychologists, they could even include members of the priesthood,” Reid said.
Also on Wednesday, Catholic League issued a statement supporting Nienstedt and calling for anyone who has photos of the 2009 confirmation photo shoot to come forward.
Many local Catholics, like University of St. Thomas senior Anne Vogel, say they will give Nienstedt the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s a difficult time for the church,” she said. “I think we should presume innocence until [proven] guilty.”
Nienstedt has denied touching anyone inappropriately. In a letter to parishes, Nienstedt says he does not know who is making this claim against him.