The simmering sex scandals that have beset the US Catholic Archdiocese of Minnesota and St Paul bubbled over again this week with the news that an outraged priest, the Rev. Dan Griffith, released a memo in which he detailed possible criminal activity by none other than the Papal Nuncio. The Rev Griffith was working at a high level in the diocese and was the diocesan liaison with lawyers appointed to investigate the handling of sex abuse scandals.
The memo records how Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican's ambassador to the USA, ordered the destruction of evidence which implicated the former Archbishop of Minnesota and St Paul, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, in possible criminal activities. In the memo Rev Griffith said the actions of the Papal Nuncio amounted to “a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal.”
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has since been replaced as Papal Nuncio to the USA following his setting Pope Francis up to meet the notorious Archbigot, Kim Davis and so appear to endorse her refusal to comply with federal law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
The evidence which appears to have been destroyed was a letter sent to him from church officials protesting his decision to quash an investigation into the alleged promiscuously homosexual life-style of Archbishop Nienstedt and his molestation and sexual harassment of priests and seminarians in his diocese. Archbishop Viganò returned the letter and order it to be destroyed. In his astonishingly frank memo to diocesan Bishops Piché and Cozzens, Rev Griffith warned that the “destruction of evidence is a crime under federal law and state law.”
|Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò|
Rev Griffith's memo reminds Bishops Piché and Cozzens that following a meeting in Washington between them and the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Viganò, at which Archbishop Nienstedt was also present, Viganò “ordered you to have the lawyers quickly interview Archbishop Nienstedt and wrap up the investigation... The Nuncio said that the lawyers were not to pursue any further leads.”
I think it is fair to say that everyone believed that the evidence presented at the April 10th meeting was compelling. Near the close of the meeting, Brian went around the room to take a poll of the folks present and whether they believed that Archbishop Nienstedt should resign given the nature of the evidence gathered thus far. Everyone present, except the investigators of course, answered in the affirmative. Brian stated that even if the Archbishop was innocent, the evidence was damaging enough that it would render him incapable of leading the Archdiocese. With that consensus, the decision was made that the two auxiliary bishops would fly to Washington D.C. Saturday, April 12 to meet with the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Archbishop Nienstedt was invited to join the auxiliary bishops and in fact did so, on their trip to Washington. The hope was to reach a pastoral resolution for the good of the Archdiocese, given the compelling evidence gathered thus far. As Mr. Forsgren and Mr. Wallace-Jackson stared they had at least 24 more leads to pursue, the decision was made to stop and assess the situation and to assess the options available to resolve the matter. After your meeting with Archbishop Vigano, you called me from the airport to say that you believed a resolution of the matter was on the horizon.
What ever occurred between your call to me on April 12th and a later call you received from Archbishop Vigano, I believe to be the turning point in the investigation and has put the Archdiocese in the very difficult position it finds itself today. I understand Archbishop Nienstedt had a conversation with the Nuncio after his meeting with you and Bishop Cozzens. In that meeting, he may have convinced the Nuncio that the allegations against him were all false and part of the conspiracy that Archbishop Nienstedt recently referenced last week as the news of the investigation broke in the media. As I further understand, the Apostolic Nuncio believed that the allegations were not as serious as you and Bishop Cozzens had indicated at your meeting and ordered you to have the lawyers quickly interview Archbishop Nienstedt and wrap up the investigation. The Nuncio said that the lawyers were not to pursue any further leads, including an allegation referenced by many of the affiants in Detroit that Archbishop Nienstedt may have had sexual relations with a Swiss Guardsman in Rome. In response to the Apostolic Nuncio's directives, you and Bishop Cozzens sought counsel and responded to the Nuncio, in letter form, stating that both of you disagreed with his decision to shut down the investigation, noting that this would rightly be seen as a cover-up. In that same letter to the Nuncio, you and Bishop Cozzens further suggested that another bishop, one outside the Archdiocese, be appointed to oversee 1he completion of the investigation, as you had been put into a position that amounted to a conflict of interest. I agreed wholeheartedly with the decision of you and Bishop Cozzens to push back and to express your disagreement with the decision of the Nuncio in the form of a letter.
I conveyed the directive of the Apostolic Nuncio to Mr. Forsgren and Mr. Wallace-Jackson as well as your request for them to pause in their investigation. Mr. Forsgren and Mr. Wallace-Jackson noted to me that this decision was not in keeping with the original mandate to conduct a thorough investigation, the integrity of which cannot be impugned. The work that was done after your request, was done either in preparation of their interview of Archbishop Nienstedt or in following up and closing out current or previous matters they bad been pursuing.
At that same post-Easter meeting, you gave Mr. Wallace-Jackson a correspondence which you later took out of his hand as he was reading it, saying that he could not read it, nor could he be given a copy of this and that you should not have given it to him in the first place. Mr. Wallace-Jackson was very concerned by this and asked me to follow up to obtain a copy. In a subsequent conversation with you, I asked you if the investigators could see the letter and you said no. At this same meeting, you indicated to Mr. Wallace-Jackson and me that after you and Bishop Cozzens had sent your April letter to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Nuncio in response asked you to take back the letter and destroy it. You did not indicate whether you had complied with this request, or perhaps it was a directive. I would like to pause for a moment and visit the gravity of what you conveyed to Mr. Wallace-Jackson and me in your office at the chancery. The destruction of evidence is a crime under federal law and state law and the fact that this request was made of you by a papal representative to the United States is most distressing. I sincerely hope and trust that you and/or Bishop Cozzens did not comply with this shocking request/directive made of you by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. I would advise you that if you have not done so already, to report this request (or perhaps directive) made by the Nuncio to destroy evidence to an appropriate authority in the Vatican.
The Minnesota child abuse scandal involved a Father Wehmeyer who, in 2012 pleaded guilty to child molestation and possessing child pornography. It later emerged that diocesan officials had known of his predatory activities for years but had not only done nothing to protect vulnerable children but had actually promoted him in 2009 to pastor of a parish of his own. Rev Griffith's memo suggests that the quashed investigation had found evidence that Nienstedt's relationship with Wehmeyer may have been closer than previously admitted and that this may have influenced his handling of the abuse investigation.
The case prompted other people to come forward with abuse allegations and eventually resulted in Archbishop Nienstedt 'resigning' from his Archdiocese duties but being allowed to keep his rank, title and sallary.
The actions of the Pope's personal representative to the USA, Archbishop Viganò in quashing this investigation and ordering possibly criminal activity in the destruction of evidence, as well as these further revelations of the activities of Archbishop Nienstedt, will be a test of the Vatican's new protocols for judging bishops accused of negligence. This new protocol is supposedly part of Pope Francis' reforms intended to bring the abuse and cover-up scandals under control and prevent further abuse in future.
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