Archbishop won't be prosecuted after allegation of inappropriate touching


Prosecutors will not file charges against Archbishop John Nienstedt, who in December was accused of groping a boy several years ago at a public event. The Ramsey County attorney's office announced the decision Tuesday, saying an investigation by the St. Paul Police Department did not find sufficient evidence of a crime, MPR News reports.

Nienstedt, the head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, voluntarily stepped aside from public ministry while police investigated the allegation that he touched a boy on the buttocks during a group confirmation photo session in 2009.

The Archdiocese reported the alleged incident to police Dec. 17.

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

News of the allegation came amid a widening scandal over accusations of clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese. Nienstedt apologized for having "overlooked" the question of child sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese during a homily at Our Lady of Grace church in Edina just two days earlier, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Nienstedt released a statement Tuesday afternoon, thanking law enforcement officials for their thorough investigation.

"While I look forward to my returning to public ministry, I remain committed to the ongoing work needed to provide safe environments for all children and youth," Nienstedt said. "I continue to offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities, as well as to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. I once again offer my apology to all who have been affected by these terrible offenses."

At least 20 new lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by clergy have been filed in Minnesota since May, when a new state law took effect that temporarily lifts the statute of limitations for underage sex-abuse victims, the Pioneer Press reports.

Nienstedt was appointed to lead the archdiocese in 2008 after serving in New Ulm.

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