Sunday, August 28, 2016

Napa county now home for John Nienstedt, twin cities archbishop who resigned under legal cloud

Chris Smith
Press Democrat
August 27, 2016

Minnesota and then Michigan evidently grew too hot for John Nienstedt, a former Catholic archbishop who was accused of protecting predatory priests and who now cools his heels in Wine Country.

Nienstedt came far west after departing Minnesota under duress and stopping briefly in Michigan. A newspaper report out of Battle Creek earlier this year revealed that only two weeks after Nienstedt arrived and took a temporary church post there he “left amid a swirl of criticism.” Residents opposed to his assignment hounded the diocese and the media, and pulled tuition support for a school associated with the church, according to another news report.

His resignation in June of 2015 as the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis came 10 days after prosecutors there filed criminal charges against the archdiocese that he ran since 2008, alleging “its failure to protect children.”

Earlier last year, in the midst of multiple lawsuits, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, citing “the scourge of sexual abuse of minors.”

Advocates for alleged victims of abuse by priests overseen by Nienstedt seek to have the former archbishop penalized and defrocked for what they say was a pattern of protecting Minnesota priests who preyed on children.

“Wrongdoing is deterred when wrongdoers are punished,” David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told a reporter in Minnesota. “But not one Twin Cities Catholic official is being punished — in the courts or in the church — for repeatedly deceiving parishioners, moving predators, hiding evidence, stone-walling police or endangering kids.”

… HAVING MOVED ON on to the North Bay, Nienstedt now is doing work at the private Napa Institute, created by Orange County attorney and Meritage Resort & Spa owner Tim Busch. The institute’s declared mission is “to equip Catholic leaders to defend and advance the Catholic Faith in ‘the Next America’ — today’s emerging secular society.”

Nienstedt has presided over Mass at the chapel at Meritage, in Napa. Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, which encompasses Napa County, is aware he’s here and said the resort chapel is “a suitable place for him to celebrate Mass.”

Vasa responded firmly to a question of how he knew Nienstedt was coming to this area.

“I talked to him, he told me,” Vasa said. “I talked to Mr. Tim Busch, he told me. I talked to (successor) Archbishop (Bernard) Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and he told me. So, that’s how I know.”

Vasa said Nienstedt is living in Napa County and that though he would not simply appear at a parish, there would be nothing to prevent him from presiding over Mass at a church in the diocese were a priest to invite him.

Vasa said Archbishop Hebda in Minneapolis told him Nienstedt is “a priest in good standing.”

“I have no concerns about him,” Vasa said.

In Minnesota last month, Hebda publicly confessed that the archdiocese mishandled allegations of the sexual abuse of three boys. With the admission, criminal prosecutors dropped a case that had charged the archdiocese with six counts of child endangerment for turning a blind eye to Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest now in prison.

(to put above in perspective, here is a commentary by a Minneapolis priest in a parish bulletin about Archbishop Nienstedt's participation in the Napa Institute several years ago)

Sunday, August 4, 2013
Are You Serious?
By Rev. Michael V. Tegeder
By its name, the Napa Institute could be anything. But according to its website it is a society for Catholics who "take their faith seriously;" a society that "emboldens Catholics to live and defend their faith" in the face of a growing secularization of society. Among its goals is to "better form Catholics in a life shaped by liturgy, prayer, fasting, sacred art and music, and habits of holiness."

The institute's "cornerstone" is the annual conference which will occur from August 1 until August 4 (I write right before their rites.) Among the serious Catholics prominently displayed as being in attendance is our own self-proclaimed Chief Catechist, Archbishop J. C. Nienstedt (along with Archbishops Gomez, Chaput, Aquila, Cordileone, and Brunett; Bishops Vasa, Vann, and Morlino, the usual suspects.)

And the setting for these serious Catholics for their four days of intense liturgy, prayer, fasting and habits of holiness is the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California.

For the unknowing allow me to cite the company's website:

Just like the wine that inspired its name, the Meritage Resort and Spa is the perfect blend of wine tasting, dining, spa, beautiful event spaces, romance and indulgence — all in one California Wine Country hotel. Unwind among the sun-drenched vineyards of our award-winning resort, offering world-class luxury in the heart of Napa Valley, California.

Sounds like secularization to me. And what better place for serious Catholics to boldly confront it right in the belly of the beast.

But I digress, the conference invitation asks the difficult questions:

Why should you attend? Part of being a Catholic leader is knowing your faith, and who better to teach you than the best of the best? The conference also inspires attendees to shape their lives by habits of holiness, including liturgy, prayer, fasting. . . . This is a conference that explores the best in Catholic thought, never forgetting that the source and summit of Catholicism is the Eucharist. There are multiple Masses offered each day in the Meritage's Estate Cave or in the resort's Our Lady of Grapes Chapel. [I am not making this up.]

I can picture the worthies offering their intense propitiations in the Chapel of Our Lady's Grapes. It is comforting to know that our own Local Ordinary is among the best of the best and what better place for him to join with the rest of the best to properly celebrate the Eucharist in memory of the lowly carpenter who had not a place to lay his head and who shared his table with the outcast. And although Jesus seemingly ignored appellations, his own vintage had good ratings ergo enjoy.

Placing a call to the most hospitable staff I was informed that they especially welcome wedding "events" at these same chapels and yes they do accommodate same sex celebrations. Hopefully enhanced scheduling will prevent any unpleasant communicatio in sacris. The crosses serious Catholics must bear.

He Is Serious

In a Huffington Post article, Pope Francis is quoted telling a group of Argentine pilgrims to World Youth Day:

I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!

"This closing ourselves off within ourselves." Francis could start at the Napa Institute conference with its better than the rest.

And for the rest of us, let us continue to agitate the mystery, messy as it might be in our dioceses.

Rev. Michael V. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Minneapolis and of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis. This commentary was originally published as part of Fr. Tegeder's "Pastor's Comments" in the August 4, 2013 parish bulletin of St. Frances Cabrini Church.

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