MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Vatican is declining to comment on an internal church document that indicates the Vatican's emissary in Washington interfered with an investigation into alleged misconduct by the former archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The newly released memo from the Rev. Daniel Griffith, one of the archdiocese's key leaders for ensuring the safety of children, accuses the apostolic nuncio of ordering Minnesota church leaders to wrap up the investigation into Archbishop John Nienstedt without pursuing all leads. Griffith also accused the delegate at the time, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, of ordering two auxiliary bishops under Nienstedt to destroy a letter in which they disagreed with Vigano.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Thursday that "the situation is complex" and that the Vatican needs more information before commenting.
"The memo speaks for itself," Father Griffith said in a statement to Fox 9. "I stand by it. I have confidence in Archbishop Hebda, Tim O'Malley, and his safe environment team. I welcome the opportunity to work with them in protecting children and in facilitating greater healing for victims of clergy abuse."
Complete statement from former Archbishop John Nienstedt
"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for the victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse, their families, their friends and our Catholic community. In particular, I am sorry for the way the Archdiocese, under my leadership, addressed the allegations against Curtis Wehmeyer. As the Archbishop, I should have asked more questions, I should have demanded more answers, and I should have insisted those within the Archdiocesan administration at the time share more information with each other. I am sorry. I ask for continued prayers for the well-being of the Archdiocese, its leaders, and all those hurt by those who have lead.
"Two years ago, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis received claims regarding alleged misbehavior involving me. The claims did not involve anything criminal or with minors. The allegations involved events alleged to have occurred more than a decade ago, before I began serving in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
"Upon my direction, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis conducted an internal investigation involving those allegations made against me. The allegations were and still are absolutely and entirely false. Nonetheless, at the time I ordered an independent, thorough investigation with an outside firm unaffiliated with the Archdiocese.
"I ordered that the investigation be conducted for the benefit of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese investigates all allegations of clergy misconduct. It would have been unfair to ignore these allegations simply because I knew them to be false. Since I would have instructed the Archdiocese to investigate similar allegations made against any priest, I ordered the Archdiocese to independently investigate the allegations made against me.
To this day, I have not seen a final report as to the investigation.
"However, I want to be clear and reiterate the public responses that I have made since the investigation began. I am a heterosexual man who has been celibate my entire life. I have never solicited sex, improperly touched anyone and have not used my authority to cover up, or even try to cover up, any allegation of sexual abuse.
"Quite frankly, I am relieved by the release of the information today. I believe that the allegations have been made as a personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Catholic Church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same sex marriage. Such personal attacks were first made when I defended the Church’s opposition to admitting openly homosexual men to the priesthood. These attacks grew even more vicious when I began to speak out against so-called same sex marriage. I publicly supported the proposed marriage amendment in Minnesota, which would have restricted marriage to one man and one woman. Each time I have spoken out I have received hundreds of threatening, insulting, and sometimes frightening letters, emails, and phone calls, some anonymous
"I also believe that the accusers are bringing false allegations forward in retribution for difficult decisions I have made as their superior. I am governed by privacy and employment laws, which limit what I can say. However, I can say that the allegations were made several years after the alleged conduct was supposed to have occurred.
"I didn’t come forward about the allegations because they are simply not true, and I didn’t want to speak poorly about the men making the allegations. The priests are known to me, and to each other. It is a matter of public record that they do not agree with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, and I have consistently taken a stand with the Church on those issues.
"It’s also difficult to defend myself because the allegations are of the “he said, he said” nature. It is my word against the accusers and, as much as they seem to want to discredit me, I don’t want to harm them. I am relieved, however, that the public now knows the extent of the allegations and can hear my response. I pray that by knowing the allegations against me, Catholics in the Archdiocese can continue to move toward healing."