MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In her first in-depth television interview, the whistleblower in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis abuse scandal says Archbishop John Nienstedt must step down.
Jennifer Haselberger, Nienstedt’s former top legal adviser, said Monday’s announcement of new policies to protect children is a significant victory, but believes new leadership is needed to implement them.
So, Haselberger said not only Nienstedt should go, but all the top leadership of the Twin Cities archdiocese should leave as well.
Last year, Haselberger resigned from the archdiocese and went public with her concerns that the church covered up and mishandled abuse allegations. She insists she is not on a mission to destroy the archdiocese, but to help save it.
Her efforts, along with a change in state law allowing old abuse claims to be heard in court, are widely credited for the reforms announced this week.
“I started this because I wanted the church to be a safe place for children and vulnerable adults,” she said.
When asked if she thinks people are not safe until Nienstedt is replace, she replied, “There are still priests that need to be removed from ministry. I think that raises a lot of questions.”
Haselberger was at Monday’s announcement where church leaders and victims together announced a set of 17 protocols to keep kids safe.
“This is a day of hope and it’s a day of promise,” attorney Jeff Anderson, who has sued the church on behalf of numerous victims, said.
Haselberger isn’t ready to fully buy into the announced changes just yet.
“I am definitely buying into certain parts of it, but, again, there are four things that need to happen. We need to see a change of leadership,” she said.
In addition to the leadership change and removing more priests, Haselberger writes in her blog that she wants the church to make public its investigation into allegations that Nienstedt had inappropriate relationships with adult seminarians.
She also wants to know what the archdiocese is doing to help the victims of Father Curtis Wehmeyer, who was convicted of abusing two St. Paul boys in 2012.
“That, for me, was a life-changing moment,” she said.
Haselberger said it was the church’s handling of the Wehmeyer case and her discovery of old documents about Father James Porter, who went to prison for molesting 28 children in the early 1990s, that made her go public.
“Here I was holding information that just showed for all these years – for all these years – we had been lying and concealing and putting people at risk. And it wasn’t changing. And if I didn’t do anything, it wasn’t going to change,” she said.
WCCO reached out to the church, but has yet to get a statement in response to Haselberger’s interview.
In the past, Nienstedt has said he would not step down and has denied having any inappropriate relationships with seminarians.