Like Archbishop Bernard Hebda, I’m also very disappointed that the case involving former Archbishop John Nienstedt has dragged on with no end in sight (front page, Dec. 15). As a lifelong, active Catholic, I can’t express how frustrated I am with the leadership in my church regarding these scandalous sex-abuse issues and the church’s relative lack of action in finding and creating ways to bring enduring resolution. Of Nienstedt’s case, Hebda writes in a letter posted on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: “I have been asked repeatedly whether there are any restrictions on Archbishop Nienstedt’s ministry. My answer has always been that although I do not know of any, I’m the wrong person to ask. Bishops report to the Holy Father, not to each other. … I can however exercise some control over the types of public ministry permitted in this Archdiocese.” What a disappointing answer. Hebda sounds like Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of it.
I would much prefer a courageous answer like: “The facts aren’t in yet, and until they are, I can assure you that Archbishop Nienstedt is not authorized to perform any sort of Catholic ministry in this Archdiocese and further, it is my recommendation that he not be allowed to perform any Catholic ministry in all Catholic archdioceses until facts are in and the case is resolved.” True leaders model their values, then demonstrate courage in the face of adversity; they say what needs to be said, then do what needs to be done. I don’t see our current Catholic leaders prepared to lead the faithful out of this wilderness, and I will pray for them.
Bob Doyle, Savage
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I endorse the actions of Archbishop Hebda and the Ministerial Review Board prohibiting former Archbishop Nienstedt from engaging in ministry in our archdiocese. Taking this serious step sets an appropriate and necessary boundary while allegations are investigated against Nienstedt.
Survivor advocates have long decried the lack of accountability processes for bishops and leadership accused of misdeeds. I have served as a survivor member of an external review board for a decade, evaluating claims against clergy and religious institutions. I see how important our work is to the restoration and maintenance of credibility for the church and public trust.
I support and endorse the call for an independent national review board provided that a minimum of 20 percent of the board consists of survivors of abuse — perspectives from survivors are critical to inform deliberations and recommend outcomes.
As the authors of the Dec. 16 commentary “More is required from church hierarchy” point out, hearing the voices of survivors is a path to restoring public trust in the church. Heeding our voices and including them is another.
Susan Pavlak, St. Paul
The writer is president of the Gilead Project, the mission of which is “to promote healing and prevention of sexual abuse.”
U HIRING PROCESS
A deeper look at the statute governing applicants’ privacy
Much to the horror of some of my colleagues on the Board of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (“U presidential search process should be public and competitive,” editorial counterpoint, Dec. 13), our government “transparency” statute is called the Data Practices Act because it also has “fair information practices” features. These features, developed in the 1970s, are intended to give individuals some rights when the government collects and maintains personal information. One of those features is directly related to how the University of Minnesota handled applicant data in the presidential selection process that recently, and once again, resulted in there being only one finalist for this important post.
Minnesota Statutes Section 13.04, subdivision 2 requires that individuals from whom the government wants to collect private personal data be informed, among other things, of how the data will be used and who will have access to the data. Once the University of Minnesota Board of Regents began collecting data from applicants for the president’s job, those applicants were entitled to receive the required notice. At this point in the U’s selection process names of the applicants were clearly private data, and assuming the U did what it was supposed to do, applicants should have been informed that if they became finalists their names would become public and be accessible to anyone. If they did not like that result for whatever reason, their recourse would be to refuse to provide the data being requested and to live with the consequences of that choice.
It is not clear if the U actually provided this notice. If it had, then perhaps any applicants who were concerned about the public nature of Minnesota’s process could have dropped out early. Instead, the U allowed some applicants to dictate how data about them would be handled, which resulted in the process producing only one finalist, a process reasonably criticized by many, including at least one member of the Board of Regents.
Don Gemberling, St. Paul
The writer is a retired state of Minnesota manager of data practices issues and a spokesperson for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.
Gabel’s background and values, the emphasis on athletics
Though I agree with Thomas A. Keller III (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 16) that it’s good to be skeptical about the relationship between a business leader — Joan Gabel, candidate for U president — and the study of liberal arts as a bastion of critical thought, Gabel’s background speaks otherwise. Her formative college years were spent at Haverford, one of our country’s finest liberal arts colleges, where she received a B.A. in philosophy (from Sophocles to Kant and beyond, the study of Western civilization’s history of thought). Haverford College is rooted in traditional Quaker values, whose decisionmaking stance (and leadership) to this day insists on consensus by all voting members. On Haverford’s website, its opening flagship page reads (beneath the heading of “Character”): “Haverford attracts intellectually curious, independent learners who value honesty, collaboration and, above all, new ways of seeing and improving the world.” What sets Haverford apart from other liberal arts colleges is its “Honor Code,” which is both “revised and re-ratified” each year by the entire student body, exclusive of faculty and/or administration input. A considered examination of Gabel’s “curriculum vitae” as submitted to the U search committee (and widely available to the public), reflects a unique leadership style clearly grounded in Haverford’s mission. The University of Minnesota will be fortunate if she chooses to serve here.
Judith Monson, St. Paul
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Just what is Keller seeking in urging that major college athletics “should no longer be allowed” at the U? A distinguished retired attorney and occasional counsel for the school, he is way out of bounds in advocating the demise of big-time intercollegiate Division I athletics at the anchor institution in the state’s system of public higher education. He feels that the “commercial sports enterprise” has diluted resources devoted to core academic endeavors like the Department of English “scattered” at varied sites around the campus.
Would he have the school deflate its athletic programs to the lesser Division II or III levels of small colleges, or abandon them altogether? Doing either would result in significant diminution of revenue for the institution, not just from the various teams themselves but from alumni and other donors; diminish the school’s profile and prestige in the eyes of the nation, and do incalculable harm to the state’s psyche, along with depriving followers of the teams of lots of enjoyment, albeit often frustrating.
It would also leave a number of high-cost facilities paid for by public funds sitting vacant. I suppose the empty buildings could be used to house the diffuse English Department.
Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis
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Gabel recently stated that athletics is the “front porch of the university.”
She has it exactly backward.
Athletics is the outhouse at the rear of the university, a place too often filled with the stench of sexual harassment, academic fraud, wasteful spending and, in the case of men’s athletics at the U, little success. The “front porch” is the core mission of the university: teaching, research and service.
George Woytanowitz, Minneapolis