Attorney: New documents suggest false statements in archbishop's deposition


Documents released Monday by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson suggest that Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave false statements under oath in April while testifying about a priest accused of abusing minors, MPR News reports.

In a sworn deposition April 2, Nienstedt reportedly claimed he didn't know until March of this year that Fr. Kenneth LaVan – who was accused of sexually assaulting at least one teenage girl in the 1980s and "sexually exploiting" several women – was still in the ministry.

"I was not aware that he was publicly in ministry, and as soon as I realized it, I had his faculties removed," Nienstedt reportedly said in the deposition.

However, Anderson – a victims' representative in the case against the archdiocese – provided documents from LaVan's personnel file that showed inconsistencies, FOX 9 reports.

Anderson pointed out that Nienstedt was updated on LaVan's continuing work in the ministry and signed off on a document about it nearly a year ago, on Aug. 15, 2013.

According to MPR News, Nienstedt received an annual report in 2013 from a church official who monitors abused priests, and in it, the official described "two face to face contacts" with LaVan. The report also described how LaVan assists at "a few parishes in the metro area when asked," primarily at St. Olaf in Minneapolis, MPR says.

FOX 9 reports by the time Nienstedt had become archbishop in 2007, LaVan had already been involved in two settlements involving the church and his individuals who claimed to be a victim of abuse – but continued to serve periodically at St. Olaf until December 2013.

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The revelation about the inconsistencies between the deposition testimony and documents released Monday comes less than two weeks after Nienstedt rejected calls for his resignation over the abuse scandal.

Nienstedt announced his decision to stay in his weekly column in the July 30 online edition of The Catholic Spirit newspaper, a publication released weekly by the archdiocese.

Nienstedt has been under scrutiny for several months over his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases in the archdiocese. Among the several high-profile parties that have called for him to step down are the Star Tribune’s editorial board, the New York Times and at least one influential Catholic donor.

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