Another day, another firing of a faithful Catholic parish music director … because he married his longtime boyfriend. The structure of the story is deeply familiar and depressing:
After marrying his long-time partner over the weekend, parishioners got an email from Father Bob White. It told them that Archbishop John Nienstedt had asked for Moore’s resignation, and Moore intended to resign. In a statement, Nienstedt said he was contacted by St. Victoria about the situation with Moore, and he told parish leaders that the church’s teachings must be upheld. Nienstedt never mentioned the Catholic Church’s stance against gay marriage, but added: “The … conduct of church employees can inspire and motivate people, but it can also scandalize and undermine their faith. Church employees must … recognize and accept the responsibilities that accompany their ministry.”
Disheads will know something about Nienstedt – and it encapsulates so much that’s so profoundly wrong with the Church. The archbishop accusing a popular music director of scandalizing and undermining the faith of others has a back-story:
Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is being investigated for “multiple allegations” of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men, according to the archbishop’s former top canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger. The investigation is being conducted by a law firm hired by the archdiocese. Nienstedt denies the allegations…
“Based on my interview with Greene Espel—as well as conversations with other interviewees—I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Jennifer Haselberger, [the archbishop’s top canon lawyer who resigned in protest in 2013] told me. What’s more, “he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.”
Haselberger also brought to light the issue of Nienstedt’s handling of child abuse cases – as recently as last year:
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.
Nienstedt has been cleared of an accusation of grabbing a boy’s buttocks, and the rest is still under investigation. Nienstedt, moreover, has admitted errors in handling accusations of child abuse, been forced to act against several priests he allowed to stay in their jobs, but refuses to resign:
A bishop’s role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO. I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here.
So contemplate this: a man credibly accused of protecting child abusers, of violating his vow of celibacy by having relationships with other men, and of, by his own admission, creating dissension and distraction in his own archdiocese cannot ever quit. A faithful Catholic in a local parish is nonetheless forced to resign – during his honeymoon, for Pete’s sake – because he decided to commit himself in love and responsibility to another man in perpetuity. No thinking, moral person can find that dissonance anything less than disgusting.
A question for Pope Francis: why on earth is this staggering hypocrite and divider still an archbishop? And why would anyone be a part of a church as morally bankrupt as this?