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September 19, 2014

Amid scandals, donors rethink gifts to Archdiocese

The Star Tribune reports that some notable big-dollar donors to the Catholic church are no longer giving to the troubled Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the wake of priest sex scandals.

The newspaper reports that among the wealthy donors rethinking their gifts to the church are James R. Frey, president and CEO of the Frey Foundation of Minnesota, and Minneapolis hotelier and political candidate Jim Graves. Graves told the Star Tribune that Archbishop John Nienstedt’s leadership “has lost a lot of effectiveness.”

Several donors told the newspaper they would withhold donations until Nienstedt was replaced. One longtime Twin Cities Catholic church donor and lawyer told the Star Tribune that he fears the church has not made all the information about scandals public. “I don’t think you can underestimate the depth of the feelings in the Catholic community, the outright anger.”

Nienstedt has said he does not plan to step down and points to a number of his efforts aimed at fixing the damage, including an outside review of clergy files.

The archdiocese has been reeling from more than a month of bad publicity related to a number of scandals – and how the church responded to them.

Pressure has been mounting on Nienstedt. Several Twin Cities priests, including the Rev. Bill Deziel, who heads a 6,000-member church in North St. Paul, have publicly said the church would benefit from new leadership. The Rev. Stephen O’Gara, a popular pastor of the Church of the Assumption in St. Paul, accused Nienstedt of arrogance. “It’s the first time, I must say, in 69 years that I’m embarrassed to be Catholic,” O’Gara said, MPR News reported.