The Rev. Patrick Kennedy of St. Olaf Catholic Church has called for the resignation of Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, saying it would create a “collective sigh of relief” from Twin Cities Catholics.
In the Aug. 31 church newsletter, Kennedy wrote that he reached the conclusion after returning to Minneapolis recently following two years away. It was then that he realized the “full effect” of the recent clergy sex abuse scandal on Catholics in the pews.
“There appears to be a pall over the Archdiocese that is affecting the ministry we are trying to be about,” wrote Kennedy, pastor at the downtown Minneapolis church.
“People are leaving our parishes. Some have stopped giving money. Others have stayed but carry a heavy heart. … ” he wrote.
Conversations with family members, friends, parishioners and others indicate that there is no confidence that Nienstedt can lead the church out of the mess, Kennedy continued. Catholics are “troubled and angry by what has happened and how the situation is handled,” he said.
Aggravating the situation is that Nienstedt has not been able to forge a personal connection with the people he serves, wrote Kennedy.
“While it is difficult for any of us in ministry to admit to a lack of bonding with those we serve, it is sometimes a fact,” he wrote. “When it is, a reassignment is necessary for the good of the church.”
The archbishop’s resignation “could prove to be the catalyst to begin the healing people long for as well as create a possible way forward,” wrote Kennedy.
He is among a half-dozen priests who have publicly criticized Nienstedt’s handling of abuse and/or called for his resignation. Following reports of the sex abuse scandal last fall, calls for resignation came from priests including the Rev. Bill Deziel of the Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul and the Rev. Mike Tegeder of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis.
The Rev. Stephen O’Gara, recently retired pastor of Church of the Assumption in St. Paul, also has been a harsh critic of Nienstedt.
The archbishop has said he has no plans to step down. He has insisted the archdiocese has turned the corner on the clergy abuse scandal and is now “in a much better place.”
“And I would have to be convinced that my effectiveness to lead the archdiocese was nil,” Nienstedt said in a recent interview. “And I don’t believe it is. I have strong pockets of support — and other pockets that aren’t supportive. I’m working on that.”
Nienstedt said the only way he would resign is if the papal nuncio, the pope’s representative in the United States, “took action.”
Neither Nienstedt nor Kennedy could be reached Monday.