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At St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis, the Rev. Mike Tegeder lamented that the publicity over how abusers were handled in the chancery has deflected from the good work of thousands of staff and volunteers who work in churches.
Those people have undergone background checks, attended continuing education workshops and worked to ensure local parishes are safe places for children.
“That’s the untold story here,” Tegeder said.
He also worried about the effect the scandal was having on the public perception of Catholic schools and other institutions.
“It’s complicated, but the general impression is that kids are at risk,” Tegeder said.
“I think [Nienstedt] was trying his best to be honest,” Ash Dias said as he left St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday evening.
“He’s trying to heal the diocese and the people. God will help him.”
The Rev. Tom Doyle, a Virginia-based canon lawyer who has testified on behalf of alleged victims in hundreds of clergy abuse cases in civil courts, said he was not surprised by Nienstedt’s deposition.
“I’ve seen a lot of depositions, and what he did is not uncommon,” Doyle said.
McDonough is next
Church leaders often claim a lack of knowledge of abusers in their diocese, have memory lapses about key facts and dates and fail to report the abuse to police, he said.
The church’s handling of abuse cases will be highlighted again Thursday, when court-ordered testimony of its longtime arbiter of child sex abuse allegations is made available to the public.
McDonough was vicar general from 1991 to 2008 under Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn. He then became the “delegate for safe environment,” overseeing child abuse prevention efforts.
He stepped down last year shortly before media reported that he was a key decisionmaker in several abusive priest cases.
Nienstedt frequently mentioned McDonough in his deposition, saying that he did a “good job” but also claiming that McDonough was aware of the details of wayward clergy, and he was not.
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