Nienstedt resigns after archdiocese sex abuse charges

Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned Monday "in order to give the archdiocese a new beginning" amid criminal charges against the archdiocese for failing to protect children from sex abuse.

"My leadership has unfortunately drawn attention away from the good works of His Church and those who perform them. Thus, my decision to step down," his statement reads, in part.

The Vatican said Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Nienstedt and a deputy bishop, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche, which was done under the Code of Canon Law that allows bishops to resign before they retire because of illness or another "grave" reason that somehow renders them unfit for office.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi filed criminal charges against the archdiocese in early June "to hold it criminally accountable for its failure to protect children." There is no name listed on the complaint, but Choi said there isn't enough evidence at this time to pursue criminal charges against individuals. Since the charges target the archdiocese as a whole, a conviction would result in a fine but no jail time.

In a brief news conference, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens asked for prayers for healing for the church and the victims. He pledged to bring  the archdiocese "into a new day" and did not take any questions.

"This has been a painful process," Cozzens said, adding it also serves as an opportunity to move forward.

Nienstedt's full statement

"In order to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face, I have submitted my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and I have just received word that he has accepted it. The Catholic Church is not our Church, but Christ's Church, and we are merely stewards for a time. My leadership has unfortunately drawn attention away from the good works of His Church and those who perform them. Thus, my decision to step down.

It has been my privilege the last seven years to serve this local Church. I have come to appreciate deeply the vitality of the 187 parishes that make up the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I am grateful for the support I have received from priests, deacons, religious men and women and lay leaders, especially those who have collaborated with me in the oversight of this local Church.

I leave with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

I ask for continued prayers for the well-being of this Archdiocese and its future leaders. I also ask for your continued prayers for me."

READ MORE - Statement from Archbishop Nienstedt Regarding the Future of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis 

What they're saying

"On June 5, 2015, this office charged the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis with failing to protect children and contributing to the unspeakable harm done to three child sex abuse victims of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. While today's resignation will be viewed as a positive development by many in our community, the pending criminal action and civil petition and the ongoing investigation will continue. As we have said, the goals of our actions are to hold the Archdiocese accountable, seek justice for the victims and our community, and to take appropriate steps to ensure that what we have alleged and intend to prove about the past conduct of church officials will never be repeated. Today's resignations do not directly accomplish those goals, but I believe that it is an affirmative step toward a new beginning and much needed reconciliation. We remain committed to finishing what we started 20 months ago, which is to allow the facts to lead the way, do only what the law allows and to do what justice requires without fear or favor." - Ramsey County Attorney John Choi

"I ask all of us in the Diocese of St. Cloud to keep the people and leaders of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in our prayers during this difficult and challenging time. We pray that this decision will help to facilitate hope and healing for the Church in the archdiocese. And, we continue to pray for all survivors of sexual abuse as well as their families, that they too may experience the hope and healing that Christ offers to all those in need." - Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud

"The resignations come as no surprise. The volume of documents and disclosures that have been disgorged through litigation, testimony given by the top officials and the body of evidence that has been developed by the civil suits and the investigation done by Ramsey County Attorney's office foreshadowed the resignations, but still falls short of full accountability. It falls short of full accountability because this whole problem is not about one man or two bishops. It is about the system that's entrenched in the old ways and adhering to secrecy and self-governance operating above the law." - Attorney Jeff Anderson

"The Catholic Church has long been a source of faith and an advocate for good for the people of our state. But the tragic cases of child sexual abuse have undermined that purpose, and these resignations will give the church the opportunity to heal and move forward." - Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Survivors hope for resignation, not reassignment
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