Twin Cities Archbishop Had Social Relationship with Convicted Priest

News: Crisis in the Church Print Friendly and PDF
by Joseph Gallagher  •  •  July 22, 2016   

Evidence suggests homosexual relations between Abp. John Nienstedt and Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer

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MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL ( - Evidence is surfacing that Minneapolis-St. Paul archbishop John Nienstedt was a practicing homosexual who had an ongoing relationship with convicted ex-priest Curtis Wehmeyer, and Vatican officials tried to keep it a secret.

Archbishop Nienstedt was head of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis during the child sex abuse scandal of defrocked priest Curtis Wehmeyer. Wehmeyer is currently serving time after being convicted of molesting three boys. The archdiocese itself became the first in the nation's history to be criminally prosecuted by the state, but it dropped all six charges of child endangerment on July 20 after reaching a settlement with the archdiocese.

On July 20, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office issued a press release stating that it would be disclosing the case's internal court documents. Among the hundreds of pages, evidence surfaced suggesting Nienstedt and Wehmeyer were in a sexual relationship that was concealed from the public by Vatican officials, particularly by former papal nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano.

In these documents, a priest speaks about a letter from lawyers of Greene Espel (a top-rated law firm in Minneapolis) addressed to their client, the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The letter speaks of an "unusual relationship, which was not professional, but social in nature between Archbishop Nienstedt and Wehmeyer."

The letter also documented Abp. Nienstedt "(not in clerical clothing) and Wehmeyer meeting and often drinking together — which is something the Archbishop would not normally do with priests." The priest also pointed out that "this alone was troubling because Wehmeyer was struggling with alcohol abuse." The letter also noted that  that Wehmeyer spoke about Abp. Nienstedt's visits to his rectory in the evenings.  

Included in the documents are witnesses' statements about Nienstedt's alleged sexual promiscuity. Pages 27–29 of the released court documents list 10 different cases suggesting Nienstedt was a practicing homosexual. These claims ranged from sexual advances to soliciting sex from a priest to frequenting a gay bar in Canada. Investigators claimed they had 24 leads to pursue with regard to Nienstedt.

With all of these allegations, the evidence grew that he was having a relationship with Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer. When the archdiocese sanctioned an investigation into Nienstedt, two bishops — Lee Piche and Andrew Cozzens — accompanied by Nienstedt, flew to Washington, D.C. They met with Abp. Maria Carlo Vigano, who was then Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, to speak about the investigation.

After presenting the information to Vigano, he told them to "wrap up" the investigations.

The bishops replied in a letter stating that if they quickly closed the investigation, it "would be rightly seen as a cover-up." Vigano then ordered them to destroy that letter and cease any investigation into Nienstedt.

To destroy evidence of a letter, because it is part of an investigation, is a federal crime.

Vigano also ordered that the lawyers working for the archdiocese cease their pursuit of any leads they had been given and not to conduct any further interviews with persons involved in the case. In response to this request, the two lawyers withdrew their services.

Father Dan Griffith, delegate for the Safe Environment program for the archdiocese, wrote to Abps. Piche and Cozzens. He called the happenings with Abp. Vigano and Nienstedt a "good old fashion [sic] cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal and accountability."

Vigano turned 75 in January and retired July 19. He has been succeeded by Abp. Christophe Pierre, who had previously been Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico since 2007.

Archbishop Nienstedt continues to deny all accusations of homosexuality and sexual promiscuity.  

After he stepped down, the parish priest at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek, Michigan invited Nienstedt to come to his parish and offer Masses there. After outcry from parishioners and child abuse advocates, who withdrew tuition from the Catholic school and pressured the parish to send Nienstedt away, the archbishop left. 

His last known residence was in Michigan.


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