Minnesota Archbishop Asks for Forgiveness: 'You Deserve Better'

Updated: 12/16/2013 12:45 PM KSTP.com By: Megan Stewart

Archbishop John Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt

Photo: Photo: Kate Renner/KSTP

Archbishop John Nienstedt says Catholic bishops have failed in their response to the clergy-abuse crisis.
The comments come a few weeks after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a list of priests accused of abuse in response to a court order. The list named 34 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

For the first time we are hearing publicly from Archbishop Nienstedt since the local Catholic Church was brought under fire by clergy sex abuse accusations.

The archbishop gave the homily Sunday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina. In it he apologized for "the indignation that parishioners justifiably feel," adding "You deserve better."

Archbishop Nienstedt also spoke out on how much he knew about sexual abuse accusations.

"When I arrived here 7 years ago, one of the first things I was told was this whole question of clerical sexual abuse had been taken care of," he said. "I didn't have to worry about it, and unfortunately I believed that. My biggest apology today is to say I overlooked this; I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. When the story started to break in end of September I was as surprised as any one else."

But now the archbishop says it's time to look forward "to restore confidence to our people who have lost confidence in us."

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis hired an outside firm to go through all the church's files. They have appointed a lay task force to pin-point which policies went wrong, leading to the alleged cover-up.

"I have to stand before the community and say for sure in all honesty that I can tell people there is no one in the ministry that is going to be a danger to their child," Archbishop Nienstedt said.

After Mass, parishioners had mixed feelings about the archbishop's apology. Some said it wasn't necessary, while others said it will help the church move forward with healing.

"I thought it showed great leadership in the church, and I think it was unexpected that he would do that," Larry Seymour said.

"I just wanted to tell him, 'thank you for coming, we really needed this,'" Evy Schneider said.

But some parishioners say what they need is time. "It's been a lot to think about around the holidays, just a lot," Nicole said.

The Archbishop has repeatedly denied media requests for an interview, opting to release statements.

He defends his response, saying most of the abuse took place decades ago. He acknowledges that it still doesn't excuse the actions or diminish the harm, but it does indicate progress is being made.

Archbishop Nienstedt Homily