Archbishop John Nienstedt, the outspokenly antigay leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Minneapolis–St. Paul, is resisting calls for his resignation in the wake of accusations that he mishandled sexual abuse allegations against priests and may have engaged in misconduct himself.
Nienstedt responded to his critics last week in a series of interviews with various news outlets — the first interviews he has given in six years — as well as a column in The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper. “I will continue to listen to those who express concerns about my leadership, but I will also continue serving as I have been called to do,” he wrote in the column.
Several lawsuits claim Nienstedt failed to properly investigate reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests, and he is accused of making unwanted advances to other men, including priests and seminarians. The archbishop, however, says he never knowingly covered up sexual abuse by priests under his supervision, although he may have been too trusting of his colleagues, and he denies the allegations against himself. He also says that despite his outspokenness against marriage equality and LGBT rights in general, he is not homophobic.
“I’m not gay. And I’m not antigay,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. When he joined the push to add a ban on same-sex marriage to Minnesota’s constitution in 2012, “it wasn’t to put down people with same-sex attractions,” but simply to assert that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, he added. Voters rejected the amendment, and the state legislature enacted a marriage equality law the following year.
Nienstedt has made many statements that could be considered antigay. He has said Satan is behind the movement for “the redefinition of marriage,” and he once wrote to the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation may well depend” on her acceptance of the Catholic Church’s teachings against homosexuality.
In one of his recent interviews, he told Twin Cities TV station KCCO that “being same-sex attracted is not sinful,” but “acting on those impulses” is.
A law firm has conducted an investigation into the misconduct allegations against Nienstedt, and its findings are currently under review by church officials. Watch the KCCO interview, in two parts, below.