I apologize to anyone who has been checking my blog today expecting more information about the investigation into the (mis)conduct of Archbishop Nienstedt. Since the story has been picked up by other news organizations (I recommend the reporting done by Esme Murphy at WCCO TV and Grant Gallicho at Commonweal Magazine), and since so much about what is taking place remains unclear and therefore incomprehensible, I decided to leave the topic to the journalists. Unlike me, they are able to at least pose questions to the Archdiocese, although it seems as though they are not getting much by way of answers. 

However, I do what to provide a bit of information by way of context. First, I want to be clear that I do not, and have never, thought that this investigation (especially that conducted by Greene and Espel) was ordered by the Holy See. Rather, my understanding has always been that it originated with a group of well-meaning and influential people within the Archdiocese who, out of frustration with the growing calamity of leadership coupled with the Archbishop's refusal to fall on his sword, saw such an investigation as a tool that could be used to pressure Nienstedt to resign. I know for a fact that certain individuals with more leverage than Father Laird had been attempting to convince the Archbishop to resign since approximately September of 2013, although I am not certain if the two groups are the same.  

Where problems arose, in my opinion, was that Greene and Espel was determined to conduct a credible investigation, whatever the result, whereas those behind the investigation would (I believe) have preferred a little less success. In other words, I think the purpose of the investigation was to get just enough information to entice the Archbishop to depart, without stirring up any additional trouble in the process. I think those behind the investigation were probably shocked and disturbed at the extent of what was uncovered, and equally troubled by the Archbishop's continued refusal to resign. They may not have gone looking for a mess, but they certainly found one.

I am not sure at what point Bishop Piche and Bishop Cozzens informed the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington of what was taking place. I have reason to believe that they traveled to see him in the spring, months after the investigation by Greene and Espel had begun, with the preliminary results. Shortly thereafter I believe the Archdiocese began to try and distance itself from the investigation, and to set up obstacles to Greene and Espel completing its work. In conversations with others involved in the investigation I began to hear grumblings against the work that was being done, including suggestions that the attorneys were being a little too diligent in their investigation. I took this as an indication, which I was later able to confirm, that Greene and Espel had uncovered a significant amount of information indicating that the Archbishop had committed acts of 'misconduct' (I believe this is the term that the Archdiocese prefers), including a number of individuals who made sworn statements attesting to the conduct they experienced. In an email to clergy today, Anne Steffens, Interim Director of Communications for the Archdiocese, suggested that 
"10 allegations” is 'an incorrect reference to perhaps the number of affidavits at the time', which suggests the Archdiocese may be trying to reclassify some of what was alleged. 

When it was announced that Bishop Piche would be continuing the investigation, I thought it likely that this would be another attempt to discredit the work done by the attorneys at Greene and Espel, and I see the current activities in the same light. However, it is difficult for me to believe that the Holy See is behind this, at least in terms of selecting the tools and the methods used. At the same time, it is possible that what is taking place in Saint Paul and Minneapolis is attributable to 'the Francis Effect'. There are certainly those in Rome who have been complaining of administrative chaos and general disorder in the various dicasteries. It is very possible that the confusion and the tension surrounding the investigation of Archbishop Nienstedt is the result of a lack of clear direction that can be attributed to the process of curial reform undertaken by Pope Francis. 

If I am wrong, I invite the Archdiocese to correct me by making public a redacted version of the complete Greene and Espel report, and any other information that has arisen from the investigation. Until this happens, I am not inclined to believe their protestations that 'there are several factual errors in the stories'. 

 


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    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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