Randy Engel
The strange case of Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt, Part I – A homosexual cleric on the fast track
By Randy Engel
August 30, 2018

The following series first appeared in The Catholic Inquisitor July-August 2018

    Who can expect the flock to prosper when its shepherd has sunk so deep into the bowels of the devil ... Who will make a mistress of a cleric, or a woman of a man? ... Who, by his lust, will consign a son whom he spiritually begotten for God to slavery under the iron law of Satanic tyranny.

    ... a religious superior guilty of sodomy has not only committed a sacrilege with his spiritual son but has also violated the law of nature. Such a superior, damns not only his own soul but takes another with him.

    Saint Peter Damian Book of Gomorrah 1049 A.D.
More than 900 years ago, Saint. Peter Damian spoke out against the "the befouling cancer of sodomy," not only as it pertained to crimes of pederasty by clergy against young boys, but also to the sexual seduction and moral pollution of young men preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

I've always thought it strange that the Vatican, while rightly condemning clerical sexual abuse against minors, has been strangely silent concerning the sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests and monks by their own bishops or religious superiors.

This brings us to the case in point that of Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who was forced to resign from office in 2015 amid accusations of sexual misconduct with men. According to the Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, Nienstedt's successor, the Archbishop Emeritus remains "in good-standing." But "good-standing" with whom?

Richard Sipe on the Value of Rumors in Sex Crimes

Throughout this article, the reader will come upon indented texts written in a bold italicized font concerning allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt that cover a span of more than four decades. The origins of these texts vary. Some italicized texts were taken from sworn affidavits or given as sworn testimony in a court of law. Some texts are based on "rumors" circulating in the diocesan chancery or within the "gay" community.

Lest the reader be tempted to dismiss the latter category of evidence as mere "gossip," I am including in this introduction a commentary on the value of rumors, suspicions and complaints in dealing with sexual violations of minors and vulnerable adults, including young seminarians and religious, made by the well-known psychotherapist A. W. Richard Sipe in testimony given on April 12, 2004.

The following excerpts (emphasis added) are taken from the online presentation Sexual Abuse of Minors in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson – An Overview of the System of Sexual Activity and Abuse Within the Clerical Culture of the Roman Catholic Church in the USA, Section 41.IV "There is Widespread Knowledge of Clergy Sexual Activity Through Suspicion/Rumor/Complaint/Report:"
    42. Sexual violations by their nature are difficult to substantiate because the actions are most commonly executed without a third-party observer. The means of determining the facts of an allegation or the truth of denial are usually derivative rather than direct.

    51. Rumors, hearsay, about abusing priests are common and a valid source of information and an important means of child protection if respected and adequately investigated. Rumors form a valid alert to danger and are frequently the most powerful indication to church officials of abuse. The source of these rumors often is grounded in the fact of abuse that can be shared by the victim only with one of his or her equally powerless friends or family members. ... Knowledge by rumor can be widespread and has been available for investigation within the clerical community for decades.

    52. Bishops and superiors most frequently irresponsibly and negligently dismiss rumors without reasonable investigation. Bishops, many who also fear exposure of their own sexual activities, have continued to exclude themselves from oversight in the directives they instituted in 2002 to deal with the problem of abuse by priests and other church employees.
All of the italicized citations made in this series were taken from affidavits, depositions, and secret memorandums found in the Ramsey County Report and are available online at the official website Ramsey County, MN.

The St. Paul Law Firm of Greene Espel conducted the first investigation into Archbishop Nienstedt's alleged homosexual behaviors. The follow-up investigation was conducted by the law firm of Wold Morrison of Minneapolis. And the third overall investigation into the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and Archbishop Nienstedt was carried out by the Ramsey County Attorney Office (RCAO).

A Career on the Fast Track

As even a very perfunctory reading of Nienstedt 's curriculum vitae will demonstrate, from his earliest years in both his home Archdiocese of Detroit and at the Vatican, he enjoyed powerful patronage and lived his priestly life on the fast track.

Nienstedt was born on March 18, 1947 in Detroit, Mich. He was the second of six children. His original family home was at Grosse Pointe Farms on Lake St. Clair. Later, his parents moved north to Harrison Township near Anchor Bay not far from Lake Huron where Nienstedt would spend much of his later years after leaving the Twin Cities area.

He attended Catholic grade school and high school in Grosse Pointe Farms and in 1969 he entered Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. In 1972, Archbishop, soon to be Cardinal, John Francis Dearden sent the handsome young Nienstedt to study in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology. He also attended the Pontifical North American College where he was ordained deacon for the Detroit Archdiocese.

Nienstedt then returned to the States and served as deacon at Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn from 1973 until his ordination at age 27 on July 27, 1974, again at Sacred Heart.

The Hinske Affair

Father Nienstedt's first assignment was associate pastor at Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson. Here he reconnected to some close relatives from the Hinske family including Nienstedt's first cousin, who was a former Dominican nun, and her son, Michael and daughter, Mary Beth.

When the newly ordained priest visited his cousin's home for Sunday dinners he was often accompanied by clerical friends. On several occasions, Nienstedt brought with him Father Samuel Ritchey, a priest of the Columbus (Ohio) Diocese.

According to Nienstedt, he first met Father Samuel E. Ritchey at the Pontifical North American College in Rome when both were seminarians and they struck up a close friendship. During the summer months of 1974 and 1975, Ritchey, also newly ordained, studied at Mary Grove College in Detroit, and continued to visit the Hinske family with Nienstedt. He also developed a special interest in 16-year-old Michael Hinske.

Even after Nienstedt had returned to Rome to earn his Licentiate of Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Institute of St. Alphonsus, Ritchey continued to frequent the Hinske household.

One evening he and Michael went to a nearby Catholic retreat center. At some point the priest asked the teenager back to his room at the center and then turned off the lights. Ritchey told the boy "I love you," and started to undress the boy despite Michael's opposition. When Ritchey fumbled with his pants Michael told him, "I don't want to do this," but the priest proceeded to molest the teen anyway.

Before Michael returned home, he got up the courage to ask the Ritchey how many other kids the priest had done this to, and to his surprise the priest replied, "'I have several special friends that come from my parish." And when he said that, Michael instantly knew he was not the first kid that Ritchey's had molested.

That same night Michael told his parents that Father Ritchery had molested him. A few days later he confided the news to his sister. His mother wanted to tell Nienstedt, but her cousin was in Rome. Unfortunately, as a devout Catholic in the mid-1970s, there were no thoughts of causing "scandal" by reporting the sexual abuse to her pastor at Guardian Angels or to the police.

So, Michael and his family kept the abuse a secret until Nienstedt returned from Rome in January 1977.

When Nienstedt went to visit the Hinskes, he said Michael's mother and sister told him that Father Ritchey "had said something inappropriate to her son and placed his hand on her son's knee," (not that Ritchey had sexually molested Michael). Nienstedt said he asked his cousin if she wanted him to talk with Michael and she replied her son did not want to talk with anyone about the incident. Both mother and daughter later said this was not true.

Shortly thereafter, Nienstedt said he contacted Ritchey and asked him if he had "propositioned" Michael. Ritchey denied everything. Nienstedt said he took the matter "seriously," but apparently not seriously enough to investigate the incident further or end his friendship with Ritchey. Nor did he ever personally discuss the abuse with Michael or report the abuse to the police or his own superiors, ostensibly because the family didn't want to pursue any legal or ecclesial recourse.

As for Father Ritchey, he returned to his home diocese of Columbus where he continued to serve as a parish priest and high school teacher. He continued to rack up new young male victims until 2006, almost three decades later, when his criminal past caught up with him and the state removed his teaching credentials and the Church removed him from ministry.

Years later, when the Hinske incident came back to haunt him, Nienstedt would insist that he never suspected his bosom buddy Sam Ritchey "had such (pederast) proclivities."

But this protestation falls flat given the fact that by the time of his nephew's molestation, Nienstedt had already earned himself a reputation for being a flamboyant active homosexual, and that homosexuality was the bond that drew him and Ritchey together both in Rome and in the States.

Homosexuality No Impediment to Clerical Advancement

When he returned from Rome in 1977, Nienstedt became Administrative Secretary to Cardinal Dearden. Following the Second Vatican Council, the Archdiocese of Detroit had been drastically reconstructed, and authority decentralized.

And, as the young Nienstedt soon discovered, much to his relief, homosexuality was no impediment to his clerical career advancement in AmChurch, in general, and the Detroit Archdiocese, in particular.
    As young priest in Detroit, Nienstedt was reported to frequent the "Happy Tap," a homosexual bar and male strip club in Windsor, Canada, located across the river from Detroit.

    Nienstedt was seen in a "gay" video store in Detroit.

    That Nienstedt was "an active homosexual" during the early years of his priestly career was confirmed by the wife of an Archdiocesan official who had numerous connections to the Arts world in Detroit.

    Also, Sister MF, a member of the Board of Directors of the University of St. Thomas claimed that Nienstedt lived a promiscuous "gay lifestyle" and frequented "gay" establishments across the border in Canada.

    Statements taken from "Confidential Memorandum of November 22, 2013 found in Ramsey County Report].

The Detroit Archdiocese with its six Suffragan dioceses of Gaylord, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Marquette, and Saginaw, already had a flourishing homosexual community within its hierarchical and clerical ranks.

As early as 1968, Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, had shipped one of his "favorites," Francis Frederick Reh, cross country to become Bishop of Saginaw, Mich.

As for Cardinal Dearden, in 1977 he appointed pro-homosexual Father Kenneth Untener as Rector of St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Mich. Three years later, Dearden gave the homosexual and pederast-ridden Diocese of Saginaw over to Untener. Reh was Untener's Co-Consecrator.

So, it probably didn't disturb Dearden too much when news reached him that his new secretary was cruising around the city's "gay" zones for anonymous sex.
    In an affidavit filed with the Greene Espel Law Firm years later against Nienstedt, WS, a priest of the Detroit Diocese (then a seminarian) stated that he met Nienstedt in 1979 in Palmer Park, a "gay" cruising ground on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. W.S. said he was there to solicit anonymous sex with another man. Around 11 p.m. a green Cadillac drove into the area and the driver asked him (WS) if he had any "poppers," and he said, yes. ['Poppers' is the street name for a muscle relaxer popular among sodomites.] The driver parked the car and WS got in. That's when Nienstedt recognized WS and looked shock. Nienstedt asked him if he was still at – [redacted]. WS said he didn't give Nienstedt any poppers and got out of the car and left.

Dearden Sends Nienstedt Back to Rome

Coincidence or not, in 1980, Cardinal Dearden sent Nienstedt back to Rome as a minor official, Second Grade, at the Vatican Secretariat of State (1980-1985). In addition to working towards his Doctor of Sacred Theology, Nienstedt served as Assistant Chaplain at the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.

Nienstedt also served as Chaplain (1981-1984) at the now defunct Notre Dame High School for Boys in Rome, a boarding school operated by the Brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

When Nienstedt returned to the Archdiocese of Detroit in the mid-1980s there had been a dramatic change of guard – Cardinal Dearden had resigned in 1980, and Archbishop Edmund Casimir Szoka, a native of Grand Rapids, had been appointed by Pope John Paul II to fill the vacancy.

From 1986 to 1987, Nienstedt temporarily served at two parishes in Oakland County while teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Moral Theology at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary/St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake.

Szoka Appoints Nienstedt Seminary Rector

In 1988, Archbishop Szoka named Nienstedt Rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. At about the same time, Szoka closed Dearden's liberal seminary, St. John's in Plymouth, and gave Nienstedt orders to implement a more traditional Catholic program of priestly formation at Sacred Heart. Openly homosexual staff and seminarians were ousted, but closeted homosexuals were permitted to remain. Nienstedt remained.

External propriety in seminary dress, etiquette and manners and even physical appearance was deemed mandatory by Nienstedt who liked his men handsome, fit, cultured and obedient, including being open to his sexual solicitation as the following commentary from a former seminarian informs us:
    According to an affidavit, sworn to and signed on April 19, 2014, JH [James Heathcott,] now married with two children living in Oregon, stated that in 1987 at age 18, he enrolled at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. One year later, in 1988 Nienstedt was appointed rector. JH said the whole tone of seminary life changed. One day, Nienstedt called him into his office and asked, "have you explored your sexuality?" Then he asked, "Do you think you have homosexual tendencies?" JH answered that he was not "gay." Nevertheless, Nienstedt suggested the young seminarian undergo counseling. Later, that same year, Nienstedt came over to the hallway by JH's bedroom and asked the seminarian to join him for a weekend ski trip with two other seminarians at a private chalet. The young man suggested that the invitation was inappropriate and declined. The rector left with in "OK." A few days later, Nienstedt sent him a letter marked "confidential," in which he suggested that the seminarian's "recent behavior," would send a wrong message to other seminarians and that he should leave the seminary. The following morning Nienstedt got his revenge and told JH to pack his bags and leave. The seminarian left. A short while later JH sent a letter to Cardinal Szoka stating that Nienstedt had kicked him out of the seminary. Szoka never replied. In retrospect, JH said he believed that Nienstedt was "grooming" him (for a homosexual liaison).

Cardinal Szoka Replaced by Cardinal Maida

All seemed to be going well for Nienstedt when in April 1990, his patron, Cardinal Szoka was summoned to Rome and appointed President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Successive key appointments for Szoka included President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State (1997) and President of the Governorate of Vatican City State (2001).

Before leaving for Rome, Szoka expressed his gratitude to Nienstedt by making him a monsignor.

Cardinal Szoka's replacement was Bishop Adam Joseph Maida, a priest from outside the Archdiocese of Detroit and the former Bishop of Green Bay, Wis.

In 1994, the year Maida was elevated to the Cardinalate, Maida removed Nienstedt as Rector of Sacred Heart Seminary, and demoted him to pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, which, ironically, was one of Detroit's hottest "gay" suburbs.
    Nienstedt served at the Shrine from 1994-1996. In later years, a Detroit priest would claim that that Nienstedt sexually solicited him when he stayed overnight at the rectory, but the proposition was refused. The priest told Archbishop Harry Flynn, "I know when I am being hit on." [Confidential Memorandum, February 6, 2014 found in Ramsey County Report.]

Were it not for Cardinal Szoka, a John Paul II favorite, working from behind the scenes at the Vatican to secure Nienstedt a bishopric, Nienstedt would probably have remained at the Shrine or been shuffled about from parish to parish, at least under Maida's watch. As it turned out, Nienstedt was in fact ordained as an auxiliary bishop on June 12, 1996, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit with Cardinal Maida as the Principle Consecrator and Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C. and Cardinal Szoka as Co-Consecrators. The new auxiliary served the Southern Region of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

One of the assignments Maida gave to Nienstedt was to shut down the local Dignity "Masses" which had been held at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church on Porter Street in downtown Detroit for twenty-three years (1974-1997) under Cardinals Dearden and Szoka. Later, Nienstedt said he acted on his own against Dignity, but the order came from his boss, Cardinal Maida.

Dignity USA, which bills itself as the largest and most progressive national lay movement of "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics," also includes "leather/levi clubs" aka "sadomasochist clubs," to promote "the wholeness and sanctity of our love and (leather) sexuality within the Church."

Nienstedt successfully removed Dignity from Most Holy Trinity Church and the homosexual clique was forced to move to another location – Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of Marygrove College operated by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The reader will recall that Marygrove was where the homosexual/pederast Father Ritchey studied during the summer months he visited the Hinske home.

Cardinal Szoka Gets Minnesota Diocese for Nienstedt

On June 12, 2001, Nienstedt was appointed Bishop of New Ulm, Minn. He served there until 2007. He also served as Chair of the Committee on Priestly Formation and was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues at the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

At a personal level, finally free from the watchful eyes of Cardinal Maida, Nienstedt became less inhibited in his homosexual overtures toward young priests and older male teens.

    In July 2002, JC [Joel Cycenas] age 35, met Bishop Nienstedt, age 55, for the first time at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada. The young Minnesota priest who had been ordained only a year before had lunch with the bishop and a regular correspondence ensued between the two men. The bishop became acquainted with the priest's family. The two attended the theater and symphony and had dinners with alcohol together. According to JC their relationship was strictly plutonic. He said he was a heterosexual. However, one day Nienstedt informed him that a rumor had gotten around among some New Ulm priests that thy were having a homosexual relationship. Nienstedt told JC to deny the rumor if asked. At this point JC began to rethink their relationship. Prior to July 2004, the bishop asked JC to spend some time with him at his family home in Michigan near Lake Huron. After incessant prodding JC agreed. After they arrived at the homestead JC tried to avoid being alone with the bishop.

    One evening when JC was about to leave, the two and some friends were at an eatery and Nienstedt became intoxicated. JC offered to drive back to the bishop's home. In the car, the bishop started to rub JC's neck and JC moved away from the contact. The next morning JC asked the bishop to hear his confession in which he told him he was heterosexual so Nienstedt would get the right message. JC flew home that day.

    After that, JC had dinner with the bishop in the presence of others. When Nienstedt invited JC to take a trip to India with him and another priest, JC refused. When JC heard that Nienstedt was to become Archbishop of Saint Paul Minneapolis, he applied for laicization from the retiring Archbishop Flynn, but told no one of the real reason for his leaving the priesthood. In later years when JC expressed a desire to return to ministry, Nienstedt treated him like a woman scorned, and made it his business to see that no other bishop would accept him either. [Affidavit of March 23, 2014 to Investigator Leatherman]

    While Nienstedt was in New Ulm, he volunteered to help move a young priest of the Duluth Diocese to his new residence. The latter was upset by the attention that the bishop was laying on him and reported the unwanted attention to his bishop. Allegedly the bishop told Nienstedt to stay away from his young priests.

    In August 2005, Nienstedt attended World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne, Germany. Among the teens attending the event was a young man who had grown up in New Ulm. The bishop invited the boys who were about 15 and 16 to his hotel room. When they got there, the young men who had gotten wet from a rainstorm were told by Nienstedt to take off their clothes. The two boys stripped naked in front of the bishop. The bishop then stripped off his clothes in front of them. The youth told his mother of the incident when he returned home. RCA investigator Eugene Leatherman stated that Nienstedt had an "inappropriate" relationship with the boy. [Interview of PB by Investigator Eugene Leatherman on December 29, 2015].

Nienstedt Appointed Archbishop of Saint Paul

On April 24, 2007, Bishop John Nienstedt, age 60, was appointed Coadjutor of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. On May 2, 2008, he took over the office of Archbishop of the plum metropolitan archdiocese from retiring Archbishop Harry J. Flynn.

Only one year later, another incident of sexual inappropriateness by Nienstedt with a minor boy was alleged but not supported:
    In December 2013, a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul sent in a report to Detective Urbanski of the St. Paul Police Department stating that on May 5, 2009, a minor boy claimed that Nienstedt had inappropriately touched his buttocks at a Confirmation picture shoot at St. Paul Cathedral. The boy said Nienstedt had one hand on his crosier, and the another on the boy's shoulder, then moved it down his back and buttocks. The young man, now 19 had taken his case to the police. Nienstedt denied the charges and stated that he has never engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor. He said he always kept one hand on his ceremonial staff and the other on his vestment. However, a picture of the event supported the boy's statement. Ramsey County Attorney's Office reviewed the case and determined that there were no witnesses to the alleged incident and not enough evidence to make a ruling on the charge. On March 12, 2014 the Archbishop was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.

In terms of clerical pederasty and the sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests by a predatory homosexual hierarchy, the Archdiocese of Saint. Paul and Minneapolis, along with its nine Suffragan Dioceses (Bismarck, Crookston, Duluth, Fargo, New Ulm. Rapid City, Saint Cloud, Sioux Falls, Winona-Rochester), has had a long and troubled past that has been well-documented, without contradiction, in my book The Rite of Sodomy – Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church.

Much of the homosexual colonization of the Saint Paul Archdiocese and its Suffragan dioceses took place from 1975 to 1995 under the reign of homosexual Archbishop John R. Roach, not to be confused with Bishop James S. Rausch, then the homosexual Bishop of Phoenix.

Roach's successor, Archbishop Harry Flynn simply extended and compounded this moral turpitude by repeatedly covering-up homosexual scandals and crimes of pederasty in the archdiocese. And Flynn's successor, Archbishop John Nienstedt did the same with the same disastrous results.

Since the vice of sodomy in the Catholic Church is largely an inter-generational affair with homosexual prelates ordaining and promoting fellow clerical sodomites to high office, it is not surprising that Archbishop Nienstedt, who got his start in the Archdiocese of Detroit, should have made his last hurrah in the Twin City Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

The Troubled Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

The sexually troubled John Clayton Nienstedt, Bishop of New Ulm, Minn., was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of the homosexual and pederast troubled Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis on April 24, 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI.

Nienstedt succeeded the retiring Archbishop Harry Flynn one year later, on May 2, 2007. His promotion was attributed to his ongoing Detroit patron in Rome, the still powerful Cardinal Edmond Casimir Szoka, retired President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State. Cardinal Szoka, who maintained all his Curial memberships until age 80, died on August 20, 2014, in Novi, Michigan.

Habits of Perversion Die Hard

After Archbishop Nienstedt got himself settled into his new Archdiocese, he quickly resumed his old pattern of "grooming" junior and senior seminarians, this time at St. John Vianney Seminary located on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Rev. Eugene Tiffany, who was ordained in 1972 for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has been a respected priest and retreat master for more than four decades. He was one of the first priests to observe that Nienstedt appeared to be more interested in grooming seminarians for himself than for Christ.

In his affidavit for the Greene Espel Law Firm and later for RCAO investigators Eugene Leatherman and Stephanie Wiersma, Tiffany said he was concerned about Nienstedt's interest in college-age men at the seminary and the Archbishop's practice of staying overnight at the seminary even though his own residence was just five miles away. This was something an archbishop should not be doing, said Tiffany.

In the spring of 2011, Tiffany's concerns were mirrored by another priest who was also worried about Nienstedt's frequent visits to the seminary and his inordinate attraction to seminarians and young priests.

According to Tiffany, the Archbishop created opportunities to get close to young men. For example, he regularly attended the "Last Chance Mass," an outreach offered by the seminary to the students of University of St. Thomas and the public. It took place on Saturday night at 9 p.m. and was followed by refreshments, and a chance to socialize.

Later, in his defense, Nienstedt would claim that his accusers had an ax to grind against him because they were in favor of homosexuality. But clearly, Fr. Tiffany was not one of these men.

The Krenik Case – A Prelude to the Afternoon of a Perp

On November 4, 2010, Father Michael John Krenik, pastor of St. Hubert Catholic Church in Chanhassen was arrested at 1:20 pm at a homosexual cruising area in a St. Paul park, after Krenik exposed himself to an undercover St. Paul police officer. Upon his arrest, the priest temporarily resigned from St. Hubert. Krenik pleaded guilty and was convicted of indecent exposure and lewd conduct in public. His misdemeanor conviction was dismissed in November 2011 upon the successful completion of his one-year probation period during which time the diocese payed for his "treatment" at Saint John Vianney Center in Philadelphia.

After the Diocesan Clergy Review Board recommended that Krenik not be returned to active ministry, Nienstedt made the homosexual priest his confidential secretary.

On January 23, 2013, Krenik was back in Ramsey County District Court to plead that his conviction of November 4, 2010, be expunged forever from the public record and his criminal record sealed, so that the priest might make "a start fresh" as a hospital chaplain. If approved, the action, in fact, would also permit him to legally deny that he had ever been charged and/or arrested on a morals charge.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services opposed the expungement while the St. Paul's City Attorney's Office favored it. The deciding voice aimed at influencing the judge to approve of the expungement after a 60-day waiting period that would permit legal appeals by law enforcement officials, appears to be that of Archbishop Nienstedt who wrote the judge to give Krenik a second chance. She did.

Whistle-blower Jenifer Haselberger

The critical state of affairs related to clerical sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis under Archbishop Nienstedt was captured in sworn testimony made by Jennifer M. Haselberger, JCL, on July 7, 2014. Miss Haselberger served as Chancellor for Canonical Affairs and chief archivist and record keeper for the Archdiocese under Archbishop Nienstedt from August 2008 until her resignation in April 2013.

The following selections taken from Haselberger's deposition under oath, will help set the stage for the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese's investigation of charges of sexual misconduct made against the Archbishop Nienstedt, and the circumstances surrounding his forced resignation on June 15, 2015. A number of these references will also be valuable to the reader when discussing Archdiocesan sexual politics and the various inquiries into Archbishop's continuing "inappropriate" aka "deviant" behaviors:
    The Diocesan Review Board is an advisory body, not empowered to investigate or reach a determination. The Charter [Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People of 2002] and Essential Norms [USCCB Revised 2011], are clear on these points – making a determination is the sole responsibility of the diocesan bishop and/or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    I also made my feelings known on more than one occasion regarding the sending of emails to potential victims... I have met with victims everywhere from military bases to free needle clinics, wherever the felt comfortable. I don't recall ever approaching a complainant exclusively by email. ...

    The way in which the Archdiocese sought information from potential complainants was one factor that led me to the opinion... that when the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis "investigated" something it was always done in such a way as to ensure that we concluded the investigation with less clarity than we began with.

    I first came to doubt that the Archbishop [Nienstedt] and his were staff being honest regarding their knowledge and handling of sexual abuse around October [2013] (as a result of comments made at a public event for clergy) and that conclusion was only strengthened by the email announcement from the Archdiocese regarding the Thurner lawsuit filed on October 29, 2013 (the Archdiocese announcement implied that it was aware of only one previous victim, and December statements made in Court by attorneys for the Archdiocese who stated that there had only been one case of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest since 2004.) The final straw for me was when the Archbishop himself stated in 2013 that he believed that the issue of clergy sexual abuse had been taken care of when he became Archbishop in 2008... .

    In that draft [annual self-assessment draft of July 4, 2012] I called out the Archdiocesan leadership for having priests in ministry who had sexually abused minors, and for not taking the necessary precautions warranted by the behavioral and psychological historic that were well-documented in our files.

    After enduring months of harassment, threats, and intimidation- examples of which I will provide later in this affidavit- I resigned as Chancellor for Canonical Affairs on April 30, 2013.

In her testimony, Haselberger mentions the names, but not particulars, of more than a baker's dozen of alleged and/or convicted sexual clerical perpetrators from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis who served under Archbishops William Brady, Leo Binz, John Roach, Harry Flynn, John Nienstedt and/or Bernard Hebda, and their various auxiliary bishops. Here is a sampling of the clerical sexual perpetrators cited in the Haselberger deposition. The name in square brackets indicates the presiding archbishop at the time of the sexual abuse:

  • Father Gerald G. Grieman The alleged pederast was ordained on June 2, 1979, by Archbishop Roach. He retired in "good standing" from full-time ministry in 1999 at age 53. In 2006, Grieman was accused of sexually abusing a young boy, but, according to Haselberger, the Archdiocesan Review Board never investigated the case. [Roach].

  • Father Joseph L. Wajda A serial pederast, Wajda claimed his first young male victim one month after his ordination in 1973. [Binz, Roach, Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Thomas Adamson Adamson was a pederast priest known to be operating in the Winona Diocese and Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. He couldn't remember the number of underage male victims he sexually abused, but records show it was over 25. The Archdiocese hid Adamson's abuse record for 23 years. One victim was eventually awarded $3.5 million.

  • Father Francisco Montero Affair with adult female. Molested her four-year old daughter. In July 2007, while under criminal investigation, Catholic Church officials in Ecuador recalled the priest and Archdiocese said he was free to return to his native country. [Flynn]

  • Father Michael Jerome Keating A former member of the Companions of Christ, and a Catholic Studies Professor at the University of St. Thomas, Keating was accused of sexually abusing at least four underage girls between 1997 and 2000 while in the seminary. Nevertheless, he was ordained by Flynn at age 42 in 2002. During a semester in Rome at the University's Catholic Studies program, Keating was also reported to have sexual relations with an underage girl (age 14) and two adult women. In October 2013, Keating was put on a leave of absence after Marie Miekle, one of his alleged victims (age 13 to 15 at the time of the alleged assault), now grown, brought charges of rape against the priest. One year later resigned from St. Thomas. Keating denied all charges. [Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Christopher Wenthe Ordained 2003, Wenthe was convicted of third-degree criminal conduct against a troubled young woman, to whom he offered "spiritual aid and comfort." The priest introduced the inexperienced victim to sodomy and other deviant sexual activities. [Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Michael Kolar Ordained in 1969 and laicized in 1993, the Kolar case involved the sexual abuse of numerous young girls during the 1970s. The abuse was kept a well-guarded secret by Archdiocesan officials including Archbishop Roach for decades. In 1988, Kolar was sent to the St. Luke Institute for "treatment." When Kolar became too hot to handle, the Archdiocese shipped him to South America. Later, Kolar alleged he had been sexually abused by Catholic Charities chicken hawk Msgr. Jerome Boxleitner, who had access to young boys at St. Joseph's Home for Children in Minneapolis. [Binz, Roach, Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Timothy McCarthy The "hip" blonde heartthrob McCarthy was ordained in 1973 and permanently removed from ministry in 1991. He engaged in homosexual acts with young boys and late teen males, as well as sex with teen and college-age women. After the priest received "treatment," Archbishop Roach recommended McCarthy for a Master's degree program in psychological counseling at St. Thomas. The ungrateful priest got his degree and went on to counsel St. Thomas students, some of whom he sexually abused. [Binz, Roach].

  • Father Robert M. Thurner In 1982, Thurner told Archbishop Roach that he sexually abused a 16 -year-old boy, but Roach never reported the crime to the police. Instead he moved the priest to another parish where Thurner abused a young female. [Roach, Flynn, Nienstedt]

  • Father Gilbert Gustafson – A notorious pederast as well as a pedophile abuser of young girls, Gustafson destroyed the lives of all his many victims including Brian Herrity, who died of AIDS complications at age 28. Gustafson had abused the 10-year old altar boy for five years. Herrity received a $150,000 cash settlement, but in 1995 as he was dying, his father asked for additional help for his son's medical bills and hospice care, but the Archdiocese said no. As for Gustafson, the Archdiocese took good financial care of him, He was awarded "disability" compensation based on his criminal pederasty (!), and the Archdiocese continued to pay his salary, health insurance, living expenses, psychological "treatment," travel, and education and even helped the perpetrator establish a consulting firm and steered clients his way. [Roach, Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Kenneth LaVan – Ordained in 1958, the serial predator of women and young girls (youngest age 12), was not removed from ministry until fifty plus years later in 2013 after his abuse records were discovered in secret personnel files of the Archdiocese by attorney Jeffrey Anderson. La Van was sent to two "treatment" centers including the Servants of the Paracletes in New Mexico and the favored St. Luke Institute in Maryland. The monitoring of the perp after La Van's release from St. Luke was put in the hands of two assigned supervisors – Fr. Joseph Wajda and Father Richard Francis Skluzacek, both criminal pederasts. Incredibly, LaVan abused one victim studying to become a nun at a convent, and another recovering from a brain injury. Archbishop Nienstedt was known to interact socially with LaVan. [Brady, Binz, Roach, Flynn, Nienstedt].

  • Father Jonathan P. Shelley – Both Archbishops Flynn and Nienstedt knew that Shelley had pederastic inclinations prior to his ordination in 1995. As a seminarian, Shelley was reported to have in sexual interactions with teenage boys at the Dunrovin Retreat Center, but he was allowed to proceed. Later, Shelley permitted an 18-year-old parishioner to live in the parish offices while the youth was having a dispute with his parents. On March 10, 2013, the Archdiocese was charged with possessing child porn images found on Shelley's former computer from 2003 [when Shelley was at St. Jude of the Lake] and from 2012 when he was at John the Baptist Church [put on sabbatical in June 2012]. Church officials, however, did not turn the pornographic materials over to the police. Instead they hid the incriminating stash in a vault for years. Three days later, on March 13, 2013, the police went to pick up the three pornographic CDs with more than 1,300 images of young males engaged in sex acts. The police allowed the Archdiocese to select and cull the images [Archdiocesan officials selected all male adult porn images] that were to be sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for examination. However, according to Haselberger, when she reviewed the images they included a pre-pubescent boy appearing to engage in oral sex with another male. There was also a series of intimate e-mails between Shelley and a minor boy. The Prosecutor's Office decided not to press charges. In 2014, Shelley was given a leave of absence, but in January 2018, Archbishop Hebda announced that Shelley was returning to a "limited" ministry as a prison chaplain. Shelley is back in business thanks to Archbishop Hebda. [Flynn, Nienstedt, Hebda].

  • Father Curtis Wehmeyer – The convicted pederast is currently finishing up the remainder of his prison term of five years for sexually abusing two boys and the possession of child pornography. According to Wehmeyer, he was sexually abused as a minor. A priest at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul who first met Wehmeyer in 1993, four years prior to his ordination, described the young man as being secretive, anxious and nervous and believed that he should not be ordained. But he was. Wehmeyer was appointed Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph's in West St. Paul where he began to act out by using the boys' bathroom at the school and by cruising local homosexual park areas in the wee hours of the morning. Three years after his ordination by Archbishop Flynn in 2001, Father Wehmeyer attempted to solicit sex from two young men, ages 19 and 20 at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Roseville, Minn. Vicar General Kevin McDonough was notified of the incident. The Archdiocese sent Wehmeyer to the St. Luke Institute in Maryland for "treatment." He returned to St. Joseph Parish and attended Sexaholics Anonymous meetings and was put under an ill-managed monitoring program operated by the Archdiocese. In 2006, Wehmeyer sexually abused a young boy. That same year, Wehmeyer was caught "cruising" for male sex partners at Keller Park in Maplewood by a Ramsey County Sheriff's officer who also reported the incident to McDonough. Thus, after two homosexual incidents reported to the Vicar General, Nienstedt gave Wehmeyer a plum assignment at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul where the priest sexually abused another young boy. In April 2009, Haselberger sent Nienstedt a written memo reminding him of Wehmeyer's criminal acts. A short while later a priest notified the Archdiocese that Wehmeyer solicited him for sex. Additional reports were coming in regarding the priest's suspicious presence at a local campground frequented by young boys. There was also the problem of young boys entering and exiting the priest's camper which was kept on church grounds. In the summer of 2009, Archbishop Nienstedt gave Wehmeyer a promotion! He made the priest pastor of Blessed Sacrament over the protests of Haselberger and Archdiocesan Chancellor Father Peter Laird. Two months later, Wehmeyer was arrested on suspicion of a DUI. The priest's archdiocesan lawyer, Joseph Kueppers, got his client off with a sentence of 90 days in jail and two years of supervised probation. From 2010 to 2012, Wehmeyer claimed more male victims at Blessed Sacrament. The priest's grooming techniques include giving young boys alcohol and marijuana and showing them pornography. He also toted a gun. On June 20, 2012, the Archdiocese opened a canonical investigation of Wehmeyer which was followed by a request for laicization of the perp. Even at this later date, the St. Paul Police had received no sexual abuse reports of minors from the Archdiocese against Wehmeyer. On June 22, 2012, Wehmeyer was arrested for criminal conduct against two brothers ages 12 and 16, and his computer holding child porn was confiscated by police (adding another 17 counts to the 3 already filed). On February 1, 2013, the priest pleaded guilty to all 20 counts. He was sentenced to five years in prison at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center. On January 29, 2014, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minnesota was overjoyed to hear that the Ramsey County Attorney would not criminally charge Archdiocesan officials for failing to report Wehmeyer to the police. No Archdiocesan official including Archbishop Nienstedt ever spent a day in jail.
It should be noted, however, that the above cases are a small representation of the more than 70 known clerical perpetrators found in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the identity of some of whom was hidden away in secret church personnel files, court records, private settlements, and institutional and police reports, over the last decade.

Is it any wonder that after looking at these Archdiocesan files, Haselberger finally called the Ramsey County Attorney's Office (RCAO) and the St. Paul Police Department to discuss details of the Shelley and Wehmeyer cases and resigned her office?

Archbishop Nienstedt Lies Twice Under Oath

In his deposition of April 2, 2014, Archbishop Nienstedt gave false testimony on at least two occasions involving the criminal activities of Fathers Kenneth LaVan and Gilbert Gustafson (see above cases).

Nienstedt testified under oath that he did not know until March 2014, that Father LaVan, the notorious rapist of young girls and women with a record of assaults dating back to the 1980s, was still in public ministry. Nienstedt claimed that "As soon as I realized it, I had his faculties removed." But documents released in August 2014 confirmed that Nienstedt received regular updates on LaVan and approved his continuing work at Twin City parishes as recently as August 15, 2013.

Similarly, Nienstedt testified under oath that he had first learned of the criminal conviction of boy-lover Gil Gustafson "during the last six months," but in October 2014, when Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) released its documents on the case, they proved that Nienstedt knew about the priest's criminal past as early as 2008.

Haselberger's Incredible Revelation

How is it possible for an archdiocese to descend into such depths of moral turpitude without self-destructing?

That question was answered, indirectly, in a comment found in the Haselberger deposition. Among the archived files she reviewed while working for the Archdiocese was one that contained Archbishop Roach's personal files on the former priest James Porter.

Who was Father James Robert Porter?

James Robert Porter was not a native son of Minnesota. He was born in 1935 in Revere, Mass. in the Diocese of Fall River. At the time of his death in 2005, he had claimed at least 200 victims, the majority of them boys, in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Rhode Island.

Porter assaulted his first known victim in 1953, the summer before he entered the seminary. He assaulted dozens of boys and girls in eight different Catholic parishes after he was ordained in 1959 [1960?]. Catholic officials never turned the priest over to the police.

In 1967, he was sent for "treatment" for his "vociferous" sexual appetite to the Order of the Servants of the Paraclete Center in New Mexico where, in between therapy sessions, he assisted at various Catholic parishes and assaulted more victims.

Still, in 1969, the Order staff pronounced him "cured" and Porter was released and reassigned to a parish in Bemidji, MN in the Crookston Diocese where he sexually abused more young teens.

In 1971, Archbishop Binz sent Porter back to the Servants of the Paraclete Center in St. Louis for more "treatment." At this point Porter decided he wanted to leave the priesthood. When he was released he found secular employment and housing in Maplewood, MN.

In 1974, Pope Paul VI accepted Porter's petition to leave the priesthood.

Porter married in 1976 and had four children by his younger wife. He also tutored students in math at the Transfiguration Catholic School in Maplewood (1982-1991) and taught Sunday school at his church.

In 1984, Porter sexually abused his children's babysitter and her younger sister, which led to his first arrest and conviction in 1992-1993. But he served only four months out of six in prison before his conviction was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In 1992, the Falls River Diocese reached a $5 million settlement with 68 of Porter' victims.

In 1993, after dozens of lawsuits were filed against him [200 counts of sexual abuse in Minnesota alone], Porter's attorney struck a plea bargain and the former priest was sentenced to 18-20 years in a maximum-security prison with the possibility of parole after six years. Porter completed his sentence in 2004, but was still held in prison pending a civil commitment hearing when he died of cancer on February 11, 2005.

Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese Aids Porter Fund

Now that the reader knows a little bit about James Porter, let's return to Archbishop Roach's personal file discovered by Haselberger in the archdiocesan archives which contained a letter written by Reverend Kevin McDonough, Roach's (and Harry Flynn's) Vicar General, to the Bishop of the Fall River Diocese explaining the rationale behind the Archdiocese's decision to contribute to Porter's legal defense fund.

According to Haselberger:
    Father McDonough wrote that in his experience if an accused priest had good legal counsel, his attorney would convince the priest to stay quiet, while if the priest did not have good legal counsel, he was more likely to try and spread the blame for his actions to include others. I don't remember if it was implied or directly stated that those who could be implicated were the diocese and/or the bishop, but the purpose of the letter was to encourage the bishop to commit to financial assistance for Porter's legal fees.
That is to say, the Archdiocesan sheeple (parishioners) are to contribute to Porter' legal fees to insure he won't squeal on other perps in the Archdiocese, be they bishops or priests or religious. And, that these persons can, in turn, continue to prey on the sheeple's children with impunity, until one of them is caught and the cycle begins again. And, as in the Gustafson case, the sheeple can be expected to continue to make payments even after the perp's release from jail and his laicization from the priesthood, for his housing, healthcare insurance, and other living expenses.

Jennifer Haselberger Vindicated

On May 31, 2018, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis announced a $210 million settlement in its bankruptcy case, "the largest settlement ever of its kind." That's right – $210 million which will be used to set up a trust fund for more than 450 abuse survivors.

By this time, if the reader's eyes are not moistened with tears of sorrow and righteous indignation please check your pulse for any sign of life.

(To be continued)


1 https://www.ramseycounty.us/sites/default/files/County%20Attorney/Affidavit%20of%20Thomas%20E%20%20Ring%20-%20Final%20Redacted.pdf © Randy Engel


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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)


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