Skip to main content

Reports detail derailed investigation into former archbishop Nienstedt


Five days after the resignation of John Nienstedt from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, new reports detail an internal investigation into the archbishop that was abruptly halted.

In a comprehensive story published Thursday, MPR reports on the investigation – which was authorized by Nienstedt in early 2014 with the goal of clearing his name.

It was handled by Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel, the Washington Post reported in July 2014, and was prompted by allegations Nienstedt had inappropriate relationships with priests, seminarians and other men.

Nienstedt, in a statement released on July 1, called the claims "absolutely and entirely false," noting the allegations were all from his time before joining the Twin Cities archdiocese, included nothing illegal, and didn't involve "minors or lay members of the faithful."

But according to MPR's new report, nearly three months earlier, Nienstedt's top advisers received a series of sworn affidavits collected by the law firm, which accused Nienstedt of inappropriate behavior - including sexual advances toward at least two priests.

The advisers all agreed he should resign, and the archdiocese's two auxiliary bishops then traveled to Washington to relay that message to the pope's ambassador, MPR reports.

Shortly after the bishops returned to Minnesota, however, the investigation of Nienstedt was curtailed and its focus was significantly narrowed – an interference MPR says multiple sources trace back to Nienstedt. Click here to read MPR's full report.

The Star Tribune has a story that includes the same claim.

The paper reports "several" former priests and students of the church levied allegations of improper sexual conduct at Nienstedt during the course of the investigation.

In one of the affidavits, the Star Tribune says a former member of the seminary declined an invitation from Nienstedt to go on a private ski weekend with him, something the man felt was "totally inappropriate." The man says within days, Nienstedt expelled him from the seminary – a decision the man says was retribution for not going on the trip.

The results of the investigaton have not been made public. MPR News reports Nienstedt authorized a second investigation by a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney in August, although no other information about the nature of that investigation has been released.

Both MPR and the Star Tribune say Nienstedt could not be reached for comment.

Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche both resigned from the archdiocese on Monday, 10 days after Ramsey County filed criminal charges against the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest.

Pope Francis has named Archbishop Bernard Hebda as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese until the appointment of a new archbishop.

Hebda is the coadjutor archbishop of the Newark, N.J. Archdiocese, and is meant to succeed the current archbishop there when he retires in 2016.

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov

Kirill Kaprizov's slow start is a thing of the past

A potential sophomore slump has been erased with a three-point night against the Devils..

mpd aldi incident screengrab

Video shows MPD officer grab, throw Aldi customer

The department says the matter was referred to the Office of Police Conduct Review.

US Sec Defense Flickr - Joe Bide Nov 11 2021

Biden lays out wintertime plan to curb COVID's spread

It comes as the U.S. reported its second case of the omicron variant.

Willow River DOC

MN Dept. of Corrections offering $5K bonuses as it seeks to hire 200

The DOC is offering hiring bonuses for new employees and for referrals.


3rd federal medical team to join COVID-19 fight in Minnesota

There are more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 admitted to Minnesota hospitals.

hospital, emergency room

Driver killed after other motorist crosses into opposite lane

The head-on crash occurred early Thursday, just north of the Twin Cities.

shot clock

MSHSL approves shot clock for Minnesota varsity basketball

Shot clocks will be required at all varsity games beginning in 2023-24.

Redmons Popcorn Colbert screengrab

Popcorn shop featured on 'The Late Show' has to close 2 days later

A county inspection after the national TV appearance found code violations.


Former archbishop no longer allowed to say mass in Twin Cities

John Nienstedt resigned in disgrace from the archdiocese in 2015