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Archbishop Nienstedt accused of inappropriately touching minor

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Archbishop John Nienstedt will step aside while an allegation that he inappropriately touched a boy in 2009 is being investigated by St. Paul police.

According to a letter on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis website, Nienstedt is being accused of touching the buttocks of the minor during a group photo session following a confirmation ceremony.

"I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me," Nienstedt says in the letter. "I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false."

A statement from the archdiocese issued Tuesday says Nienstedt has voluntarily removed himself from the public ministry while the case is being investigated, the Star Tribune reports.

"The archbishop and the archdiocese stand ready to cooperate fully with the St. Paul Police," the statement reads.

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith says investigators have scheduled a meeting with an attorney for the archdiocese on Wednesday, which is an unusual move for the archdiocese.

Smith said at a news conference Tuesday that the archdiocese hasn't cooperated with law enforcement during past investigations. When asked to conduct voluntary interviews with members of the archdiocese, Smith says his department has been told "no."

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As numerous lawsuits alleging sex abuse by clergy members have been brought against the archdiocese this year, Nienstedt has vowed to reexamine how allegations, such as the one brought against him, are being handled within the church.

On Sunday, Nienstedt made a public apology in Edina, saying Catholic bishops have failed in their response to the clergy-abuse crisis.

The newspaper says Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché will assume the archbishop's public duties.

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