Nienstedt Returns To Public Ministry

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Charges will not be filed against Archbishop John Nienstedt in connection with an alleged groping incident involving a boy.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says St. Paul Police conducted an “extensive investigation” surrounding the allegation that Nienstedt inappropriately touched a boy during a photo session at a confirmation ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Paul on May 5, 2009.

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According to the investigation, following the ceremony, the boy told his mother that Nienstedt touched his buttocks. At a later date, the mother told a friend, who happened to be a priest, about the alleged incident. The priest then reported the incident to the archdiocese and later the police on Dec. 16, 2013.

In a later interview with police, the accuser said that during the photograph session Nienstedt’s hand had moved down his back to his buttocks, and that he thought it was “creepy,” but did not feel violated.

After locating the photograph of the accuser with Nienstedt, police observed that the group is arranged on the stairs and the archbishop is standing one step higher than the accuser. So, it appeared that Nienstedt would have to bend to reach the boy’s buttocks and any such action would likely be witnessed by others present.

Police also identified and talked with every person in the photograph. No one reported seeing anyone touched or seeing anyone react in a startled manner as though something had happened.

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Based on the investigation, the attorney’s office decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Nienstedt.

Nienstedt reacted to the news Tuesday afternoon.

“I am thankful to the Saint Paul Police for their thorough investigation, as well as to the Ramsey County Attorney’s office for their professional work regarding this matter. I look forward to returning to public ministry during this Lenten season, especially during Holy Week and the great feast of Easter,” Nienstedt stated in a press release. “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. 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 attorney’s office stressed that Tuesday’s announcement only involves one specific prosecutorial decision.

“The broader police investigation of child sex abuse allegations within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis along with other related allegations remains active and ongoing. By their very nature, these investigations are complex and can often take more time than most law enforcement investigations to complete. As ministers of justice, we will allow the facts to lead the way as the law allows and do what justice requires,” the attorney’s office statement said.

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Nienstedt voluntarily stepped aside from the public ministry in December when the investigation began. As a result of Tuesday’s announcement, he will now resume his public ministry duties.