Politics Magazine

The Nienstedt Investigation

Posted on the 29 January 2015 by Erictheblue

Last September, in this editorial, National Catholic Reporter called on the Archdiocese of the Twin Cities to disclose the results of a local law firm's investigation of its archbishop, John Nienstedt, who is suspected of having "inappropriate" sexual relations with adult men.  I think that is a fair way to characterize the suspicions.  Nienstedt, in his denials, has stated that the allegations against him do not concern minors, or lay people, or behavior that violates any criminal laws.  It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that he has pursued consensual frolics with men who, like him, have taken a vow of chastity.  All these guys should've been hanging with me when I was in early middle age.  I could've shown them how to keep their promise.  Hang out in coffee shops with your nose in a book.  Go to the movies late at night by yourself.  Watch a lot of sports on tv in your apartment.  Go golfing with your friends, old married heterosexual fellows.  It is possible to avoid interactions, let alone intercourse, with the subset of people who might be willing.

Anyway, the Archdiocese isn't listening. Four more months have now passed and we still don't know what the law firm found.  As the editorial points out, the investigation was paid for with archdiocesan money contributed by local Catholic parishioners, so it seems that they should see the fruit of what they bankrolled.  Was the investigation conducted so that only other church officials would be up to date on the archbishop's sex life?  Another thing that seems reasonable to assume is that we'd know what the investigation had found if it had found nothing.

Jennifer Haselberger, the former archdiocesan lawyer who resigned in disgust, has a theory.  Plenty of people in the local Catholic community, some well placed, understand that Nienstedt is a disgrace.  They want him gone, but of course he regards them in the same way he regards the editorialists at National Catholic Reporter.  The idea of the investigation was to augment their quiet calls for his resignation with some upturned dirt.  The problem is that the investigators, a couple of litigators at a firm specializing in white-collar criminal defense, over-performed at what lawyers call "discovery."  In other words, Haselberger thinks the results of the investigation likely go well beyond being embarrassing in a tidy, utile sort of way.  In her career as a whistle-blower, she hasn't yet been shown to be wrong about anything.

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