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More outrage over Catholic churches moving accused priests around

On behalf of Soloff & Zervanos, P.C. Posted in Sexual Abuse on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

In one of our posts last week, we wrote about an unfolding story in the Midwest involving a former Catholic archbishop. Although the incident did not happen here in Pennsylvania, similar incidents have happened here and in many other parts of the country.

In mid 2015, John Nienstedt resigned as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There is much evidence to suggest that Nienstedt knew about credible sex abuse allegations against priests, yet failed to take any corrective or preventive action. Much of this evidence was revealed during the discovery period for numerous lawsuits against the archdiocese. Nienstedt continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, a priest in Michigan casually mentioned to parishioners that Nienstedt would be an occasional substitute at the church over the next six months while the regular priest attended to health issues. Nienstedt’s recent and very controversial past was not mentioned, but it did not take long for the community to discover the truth.

Late last week, public outrage led to Nienstedt’s removal from his temporary assignment. But the move was not enough to satisfy protest groups, including the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). According to news sources, protestors want the local diocese to take several actions, including:

  • Holding a public meeting to talk about why Nienstedt was allowed to transfer there
  • Punishing the priest who invited Nienstedt to come without warning parishioners
  • Revealing whether there are any other “sexually troubled or complicit clerics” serving within the diocese

SNAP has long been instrumental in advocating for victims and holding the church accountable for its actions. But the fact that a group like SNAP even exists is evidence of just how pervasive clergy sexual abuse has been and continues to be. And while the Catholic Church is not the only religious institution affiliated with child sexual abuse, the church’s top-down authority structure makes it especially difficult to hold offending priests accountable.

Hopefully, the outrage shown over this incident is a sign that American Catholics will no longer tolerate the institutional obstructionism that allows religious leaders to sexually abuse children.