Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hard-line bishop to succeed Archbishop Flynn in St Paul-Minneapolis

Roman Catholic Bishop John Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minn., a theological conservative who has taken on Hollywood, stem-cell research and people who make too much noise in church, was named Tuesday to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn.

The announcement by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that Nienstedt, 60, had been named "coadjutor archbishop" ended months of speculation over who would succeed Flynn, who will step down when he turns 75 next year.

Flynn, who has been archbishop since 1996, introduced Nienstedt at the archdiocese's chancery in St. Paul. He called Nienstedt "such a capable bishop" and said he had "broad experience that will serve him well."

But Nienstedt's time as bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm has not been without controversy. While Flynn and others lauded him as an able administrator and liturgist, some of his actions have rankled his own priests and parishioners in the diocese he has led since August 2001.

Soon after being named bishop in New Ulm, he condemned some of the theological views of the man who had held the post before him for 25 years, Bishop Raymond Lucker, a noted progressive clergyman who died in 2001. Denouncing his predecessor's views was an "extraordinary step," the National Catholic Reporter noted in an article on the incident.

As bishop in New Ulm, Nienstedt prohibited cohabitating couples from being married in Catholic churches. He barred female pastoral administrators from leading prayers at a semiannual leadership event. He once disciplined a priest for holding joint ecumenical services with a Lutheran congregation after the Catholic church had been destroyed by a tornado.

Kenneth Irrgang, a retired priest who clashed with Nienstedt when he was bishop in New Ulm, predicted that Nienstedt will meet resistance among the 654 active priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"I expect disaster there. I don't think those priests are going to accept him," said Irrgang, who now lives in St. Cloud. "He's a micromanager. He has to control everything. He hews the line from the Vatican without any question whatsoever. He's not a very good people person."

But the Rev. Philip M. Schotzko of the Church of St. Peter in St. Peter, Minn., praised Nienstedt's abilities.

"Bishop Nienstedt is a consummate man of the church," said Schotzko. "He thinks with, prays with and loves the church with everything he's got. He just follows very carefully the teachings and all aspects of church theology and moral teachings. You'll get a very committed man in that way."

In a column from June with the headline "Silence," Nienstedt complained about people talking while he prepared for weekend liturgies, saying it was a "din of noise ... not unlike that of a sports arena."

"I have tried to overhear what is so important that people need to speak in church," he wrote. "Normally comments range from one's view of the weather, to a recent sports event, to how old Uncle Henry is looking. None of it is essential. None of it has to be spoken at that time." PioneerPress Read it All


Anonymous said...

I cringe when I read "Hard-line bishop..."

Maybe I'm a bit cynical, I think the strategy is to paint the bishop as hard-line so when he becomes Archbishop he will bend over backwards to prove he's not.

Unknown said...

I also cringed when I saw that headline.

But generally it is used by the press to designate those with whom they disagree. So that's not bad all the time.

You can see it the way the press greet the Pope, termed by man as "God's Rotweiler." When they agree with His Holiness, they express amazement at how reasonable he is.

When they disagree with him, the "Rotweiler" term comes out faster than you can say "Jack Robinson."

Anonymous said...

Certain parishes are clearly shaking in their rainbow-colored birkenstocks right now. I won't name any names, but we all know who we're talking about. I have a feeling there will be massive outcry from those pockets of paganism.

~ Adoro

Anonymous said...

If you go to the online version of the Pioneer Press, you can see they changed the headline from "Hard-line bishop" to "Conservative bishop". Interesting.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I already sent in my letter to the PP over my lunch hour, essentially stating that they are being overly critical of His Excellency before he even starts. I also said that nothing His Excellency said or did in the article is contrary to Church teaching, however, the same cannot be said of his predecessor in New Ulm, Bishop Lucker.

You KNOW it's an extreme story when even the Red Star's coverage of his appointment sounds reasoned in relation.