In the News: Church Abuse Requires Accountability

Hank Shea, a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and fellow at the university's Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing, wrote an op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter arguing the church's abuse law is not working.

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Pointing to the "long-standing, unsuccessful efforts in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to hold its former archbishop, John Nienstedt, accountable for alleged personal sexual misconduct and a failed cover-up involving abuse by another priest under his supervision," Shea detailed how formal complaints, following the Vatican's Vos Estis protocol, have resulted in silence in the archdiocese and other Minnesota church communities.

The Vos Estis process, which will not be extended past its June 1, 2022, expiration, Shea said, is symptomatic of how too many church officials have dealt with clergy sexual abuse.

From the article: "First, far too many faithful in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis harbor mistrust and feelings of betrayal as a result of Nienstedt's alleged misconduct, which the church sadly has failed to address. This includes foremost his victim-survivors, and their families and friends. Even though some of those minors who were victimized are now adults, they bear wounds that may never heal without an accounting of what they suffered.

It also includes all those parishioners who have attended archdiocesan listening sessions and restorative justice gatherings seeking a path to closure and reconciliation regarding Nienstedt's conduct, who have been left without either. How does the church expect them to regain trust in its leaders and find healing?

Second, deliberate disregard of the Vos Estis requirements and the completion and review of the investigation also leaves Nienstedt with a deeply stained reputation and without recourse. Nienstedt has indicated publicly that he welcomes an investigation and a chance to clear his name. He must be given that opportunity no matter how much some in the church may want to avoid a final, public reckoning. At his current age of 75, Nienstedt deserves to be judged expeditiously and either held accountable or exonerated with a final decision. Justice and fairness demand nothing less."