Yesterday, we got a glimpse of the actual affidavit filed by the former chancellor of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis that charges the Archbishop and others of continuing to ignore child sex abusers in their midst. Jennifer Haselberger appears to be a rare figure who actually cared about the safety and welfare of children in the archdiocese and tried to keep the entire place operating professionally and legally. And failed on both counts. What makes this case different is that the cover-up of child-abuse is occurring long after new rules were put in place to prevent it, and we have in Haselberger an unprecedented whistle-blower from the inside:
Most clergy abuse lawsuits rely on decades-old documents, testimony from a handful of experts on church law, and depositions from recalcitrant church officials and abusive priests. Top chancery officials rarely come forward to disclose the church’s secrets. [Attorney Jeff] Anderson called the affidavit “historically important” in the history of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Haselberger resigned in April 2013 in protest over the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases. She contacted MPR News in July 2013 and disclosed how Nienstedt and other top officials gave special payments to abusive priests, failed to report alleged sex crimes to police and kept some abusers in ministry. Her account was especially stunning because it involved decisions made by church leaders as recently as April 2013.
To add to this toxic stew, Nienstedt is fighting back against “multiple allegations” of inappropriate sexual encounters with seminarians, priests and other men – including one accused of child abuse. He is also – surprise! – an almost fanatical opponent of marriage equality and a constant, obsessive voice against the evils of homosexuality. Dreher flips out at the prospect of another theocon revealed as a fucked-up fraud:
Haselberger says what drove her to quit in anger was realizing how little the archdiocese cared about protecting children, only protecting priests — even priests they knew were guilty — and how vulnerable children were. She says that Archbishop Nienstedt was such a micromanager that he would send stern notes (“nastygrams”) to chancery employees for such petty offenses as leaving the lights on, or not wearing a tie — but when it came to dealing with clerical sexual misconduct, he was seemingly indifferent … If Haselberger is telling the truth, it staggers the mind to think that Pope Francis — who has the right to remove Nienstedt — tolerates this man remaining in charge a single day longer.
It will and should be another acid test for this Pope on child abuse. This is about enforcing rules that have now long been implemented; it’s about retaining even a sliver of moral credibility; and it’s about protecting children from psychologically damaged products of the church’s incoherent and impossible teachings on sex. I wish I were more hopeful. But who can be, at this point?