Two Minnesota Catholic Bishops Resign Amid Sex Abuse Probe

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. | (Photo: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis)

Two bishops from a Catholic Archdiocese have announced their resignation over an investigation into the potential failures of the church body to protect minors from a sexually abusive priest.

The Vatican recently accepted the resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche, both of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

These resignations were connected to an ongoing investigation regarding the archdiocese's culpability in the criminal actions of a pedophile priest.

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"The criminal charges against the archdiocese stem from its handling of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin," reported NBC News.

"Prosecutors say church leaders failed to respond to 'numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct' by Wehmeyer from the time he entered seminary until he was removed from the priesthood in 2015."

Nienstedt had already stepped down from most of his duties as archbishop following a probe into allegations he had abused a minor back in 2009.

In December 2013, Nienstedt voluntarily stepped down pending the police investigation, saying in a statement that the allegations were "absolutely and entirely false."

"I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully," stated Nienstedt.

As part of the process of Nienstedt stepping down in late 2013, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche assumed his responsibilities for the archdiocese.

News of the two leaders' resignations comes not long after Vatican City announced the creation of a tribunal to deal with cases regarding bishops who failed to report sex abuse in their dioceses.

"Pope Francis will appoint a secretary and permanent staff for the new department, which will have a five year period to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of these new procedures," noted Vatican Radio last week.

"The move marks an important step in the ongoing process to hold Church leaders accountable for the actions of abusive priests — something that abuse survivors have insisted is essential to both the healing and prevention efforts."

Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that she and her organization wanted more action taken against Nienstedt.

"Though he has resigned, we still believe Neinstedt should be punished for enabling a predator to hurt kids," said Dorris on Monday morning.

"We hope these Vatican panels will quickly take up the Neinstedt case so that cover-ups will be deterred and kids will be safer."

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