Ex-Archbishop Nienstedt leaves Michigan church over parishioner concerns

- Former Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt is leaving his new post at a church in Battle Creek, Mich. after his presence sparked concern from parishioners. Nienstedt resigned last June after the Ramsey County attorney’s office filed civil and criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.

Nienstedt was not formally assigned to St. Philip Church, but had planned to assist with various pastoral ministries at the Michigan parish until he moved to a new church in the summer. 

In a letter to the church on Thursday, Father John Fleckenstein said Nienstedt had decided not to continue his work with the church after news of his hiring sparked controversy within the parish. 

“After discussion with the Archbishop conveying the expressed concerns by the faithful people of our community, he offered to withdraw from the diocese and I agreed,” Fleckenstein said in the letter. “[He] has a deep concern for the Church and in light of the unintended discord that his presence was causing, he decided that this would be the best course of action so the church can remain focused on its mission.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) had previously called for Nienstedt’s removal from church. The organization issued a statement in response to Nienstedt’s decision to leave.

“For the safety of the parishioners and the public, [Nienstedt] should not ever be put back into ministry,” Barbara Blaine, SNAP’s president, said. “Doing so would be a risky, callous move that would reward and encourage more recklessness and deceit.”

Letter to from Father John Fleckenstein to the St. Philip Church

Dear members of the Battle Creek Area Catholic Community,

I wish to inform you that Archbishop John Nienstedt has decided to discontinue his pastoral assistance for St. Philip Parish, effective immediately. After discussions with the Archbishop conveying the expressed concerns by the faithful people of our community, he offered to withdraw from the diocese and I agreed. Archbishop Nienstedt has a deep concern for the Church, and in light of the unintended discord that his presence was causing, he decided that this would be the best course of action so the Church can remain focused on its mission. At the same time, the Archbishop shared with me the deep gratitude he has for the hospitality he received from so many of our parishioners.

A very regrettable circumstance of Archbishop Nienstedt’s presence within our community has been anger and fear. I’m proud of the good works of our parishes and our Catholic schools as well as our valuable place in our community. I wish for us to continue growing and striving. My hope is that we can move forward together.

I wish Archbishop Nienstedt well and I know many of you do as well. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as called for by Pope Francis, I pray we may find peace, support, and healing for ourselves and with each other, and that we continue to care for all people with charity.

 

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