A new auxiliary bishop was named for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Friday, a papal announcement that arrived as the archdiocese grapples with allegations of a possible coverup of child pornography claims.
The Rev. Andrew Cozzens, 45, an assistant professor of sacramental theology at St. Paul Seminary, will be ordained in December as the archdiocese's second auxiliary bishop by Archbishop John Nienstedt.
"My main hope is simply to try to be part of the healing," Cozzens said in a radio interview.
Nienstedt requested a second auxiliary bishop 18 months ago partly because the archdiocese needs a bishop to "more effectively support the needs of the strong and growing Catholic Latino population," Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in an e-mail. "Bishop-elect Cozzens speaks fluent Spanish and has a deep love for the Latino people."
The timing of the announcement, in the midst of the coverup allegations, may be "a lucky coincidence," said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and expert on Catholic hierarchy who is senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter.
The sex abuse scandal is what "is hurting the [local] diocese right now," and Cozzens is signaling he wants to be part of the healing process, Reese said.
Based on Cozzens' résumé, he would not have been involved in the decisionmaking that led to allegations of coverup, Reese said. "He can talk to the people, talk to the victims and say, 'I didn't have anything to do with this, how can I help?' "
The appointment was criticized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which said it was discouraging that Cozzens came from within the archdiocese. "If anything can be done internally to expose and punish wrongdoers, it will take a courageous outsider, not a popular insider," it said in a statement.
The archdiocese already has one auxiliary bishop, Lee Piché. It takes up to two years for an auxiliary bishop to be named. Once the Vatican agrees to the request, the archdiocese submits three names, from which one is selected, Reese said.
Cozzens will be ordained bishop at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Dec. 9. The archdiocese rejected a Star Tribune request to interview Cozzens on Friday.
"I'm a firm believer that Jesus wants to heal," he is quoted as saying in the Catholic Spirit. "I've been very impressed with Pope Francis' image that the Church is like a field hospital. We're living in a world in which there are many hurting people. I just hope my ministry as a bishop will be part of the healing that flows from the heart of Jesus for people."
Ordained in 1997, Cozzens studied Spanish in Mexico before serving from 2000 to 2002 in Faribault. He said he helps with Spanish masses whenever he can.
Also on Friday, St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said officers were "further down the path" of their renewed investigation into allegations that a priest downloaded child pornography onto a computer that was discovered by a Hugo man in 2004 and turned over to the archdiocese. The allegations of a coverup by former archdiocesan canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger prompted the archdiocese to form its own investigative task force this week.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said Friday his agency is "standing down" while Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and St. Paul police investigate. He said he has two staff attorneys "ready to go" if the case bounces back to him. The computer was originally discovered in Mahtomedi and plucked out of a rummage pile of goods discarded at St. Jude of the Lake, where the priest lived and was pastor.