Saint Paul, MN. April 8, 2010 – The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, comments in his column in today’s issue of the Archdiocese’s newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, that he believes attempts to involve Pope Benedict XVI in allegations of clergy sex abuse cover ups are “misguided and unfair.”
Writing about widespread media reports that the “cover up” extends all the way to the Vatican, Archbishop Nienstedt agrees with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who has stated that “no one was more helpful to the American Catholic hierarchy and the Church at large in 2002 than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger”. In today’s column, Nienstedt write, “He (then Cardinal Ratzinger) understood the depths of the crisis facing the American Church at the time and helped provide the canonical assistance we needed in order to address the terrible scourge of sexual abuse in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
In his column, Nienstedt also states that “Since 2002 (when the Charter was adopted) the Catholic Church in this country has worked harder than any other organization I can think of to put into place measures to protect young people as well as to reach out to former victims.”
Nienstedt backs up that claim by stating that Catholic dioceses around the U S have invested more than $21 million for child protection efforts, including training programs, background checks and salaried positions. He notes that “almost six million students in Catholic schools or religious education programs have participated in Safe Environment training and that over two million priests, deacons, seminarians, educators, employees and volunteers have had background checks.
“Here in this Archdiocese, over 76,000 background checks have been made and 12,000 Church employees, including clergy and 30,000 volunteers have gone through safe environment training. Thus, the situation today is far different and safer than it was 30 or 40 years ago,” he contends.
Yet, in his column, the Archbishop makes no attempt to minimize the past existence of sex abuse within the Church. Let me be clear when I again state that sexual molestation of any kind is indefensible,” he writes. “It is a sin that cries out for forgiveness. We can perhaps never apologize enough for what has taken place. We must direct ourselves to the healing of victims.”
In his conclusion, Archbishop Nienstedt writes, “Whatever was the case 30 years ago, which affected Church-related and non-related organizations, the bishops today, as well as the Pope, have a much different understanding of what needs to be done. I wish we could go back to undo the harm that was done years ago. But unfortunately, we cannot. What we can and must do is to make sure it doesn’t happen today.”