US Archbishop Quits Amid Sex Abuse Coverup Charges

As Vatican announces former envoy will stand trial on molestation charges
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2015 6:51 AM CDT
Updated Jun 15, 2015 6:59 AM CDT
US Archbishop Quits Amid Sex Abuse Coverup Charges
Archbishop John Nienstedt speaks, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The archbishop of St. Paul, Minn., stepped down this morning over allegations that his deeply troubled archdiocese repeatedly failed to protect children from what the AP is calling "unspeakable harm from a pedophile priest." Out of a job is Archbishop John Nienstedt, as well as Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche, whose resignations were accepted by Pope Francis under a canonical code that allows bishops to resign before retirement because of a "grave" reason making them unfit to serve. Minnesota prosecutors earlier this month charged the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a corporation with having "turned a blind eye" to "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is currently serving five years for molesting two boys. He faces prosecution in a third case.

Says Nienstedt in a statement, per the Star Tribune: "I leave with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults." Facing settlements with abuse victims, his archdiocese earlier this year filed for bankruptcy; the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported last month that it put several buildings, including the archbishop's residence, up for sale. The resignations come just days after Pope Francis created a tribunal designed to crack down on bishops who fail to protect their flocks. The BBC reports that this morning the Vatican announced that its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic will stand trial in a Vatican criminal court next month amid allegations he sexually abused boys. Francis earlier this year accepted the resignation of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, who pleaded guilty to covering up for a pedophile priest. (More archbishop stories.)

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