Archbishop John Nienstedt who served as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 2008 to 2015 has prematurely quit his temporary position with a parish in Battle Creek, Michigan where he was supposed spend 6 months helping his friend Fr. John Fleckenstein, who has recently experienced health issues following a stir of strong protests from Catholic parents and abuse victim advocates caused by his presence.
Parish pastor, Fr. John Fleckenstein, announced to parishioners in a letter on Thursday saying: “After discussions with the archbishop conveying the expressed concerns by the faithful people of our community, he offered to withdraw from the diocese and I agreed. Archbishop Nienstedt has a deep concern for the church, and in light of the unintended discord that his presence was causing, he decided that this would be the best course of action so the church can remain focused on its mission."
The Archbishop arrived at the parish Jan. 6 and was expected to serve at the parish for six months.
He had been accused of allegedly overlooking sexually abusive priests and playing a role in protecting accused predatory priests like in the case of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest. The Archbishop Nienstedt had also been in the middle of a different investigation, which he commissioned in 2014 to clear his name, after allegations that he had been involved sexually with men. He has denied those allegations, although that is yet to be proved.
“I was surprised it took an outcry for them [church leaders] to make the right decisions,” said Samantha Pearl, one of the parents at St. Philip who was an outspoken critic of Nienstedt’s move to her parish. “I’m relieved.”
Advocates for clergy abuse victims also were taken aback by the swift departure of St. Paul’s former archbishop, who was scheduled to help out at the Battle Creek church for six months.
Fr Fleckenstein had announced Archbishop Nienstedt’s arrival to the parish on January 10 in his parish’s bulletin. He said that the archbishop would be helping out in the light of his ongoing serious health challenges for about six months.He said he had known Archbishop Nienstedt for 20 years, since the archbishop was pastor of a parish in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Expressing regret over the situation, Fr Fleckenstein wrote in the letter “A very regrettable circumstance of Archbishop Nienstedt’s presence within our community has been anger and fear. I’m proud of the good works of our parishes and our Catholic schools as well as our valuable place in our community. I wish for us to continue growing and striving. My hope is that we can move forward together."
He said he wished Archbishop Nienstedt well and that “I know many of you do as well." He also said that the archbishop “shared with me the deep gratitude he has for the hospitality he received from so many of our parishioners."
Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo apologized also for the inconvenience this situation has caused saying:
“It would never be my intention to bring harm to our beloved local Church. While I am personally convinced that at no time was anyone in danger, I acknowledge the concerns expressed," he wrote. “I pray that with this matter now resolved, we will all be able to move forward. I want to regain your trust where that has been damaged or lost, and continue to strengthen our local Church here in the Diocese of Kalamazoo."