Yet the sexual abuse scandal is only one part (albeit an incredibly significant one) of the overall shaky state of affairs in the Archdiocese. Lest anyone forget, the Archdiocese's financial problems began long before the passage of the Minnesota Child Victims Act, and the poor management, lack of effective oversight, and general dysfunction that weakened child protection efforts also fostered an embezzlement scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved many more individuals than the one that was prosecuted (and much higher dollar amounts than the Archdiocese wants to admit and the statute of limitations will allow to be prosecuted). As I see it, the current crisis is only a visible symptom of a much larger, chronic problem that went largely undetected (or at least unreported) until September of 2013.
These are the issues about which I expect we will be hearing in 2015.
Several people with an interest in this matter have told me that they are anticipating a bankruptcy filing sometime in January. As we have been told repeatedly, if such an event would occur the reorganization would impact only the central archdiocesan corporation and not the daily operations of the parishes and affiliated charities. In truth, however, no one will really know what is impacted until the matter goes before a judge and until it is clear that creditors (possibly plaintiffs) will not seek compensation from or attempt to challenge the organizational structure of parishes and other separate but affiliated organizations.
2). Investigation into Archbishop Nienstedt
At this time last year, the public was informed that Archbishop John Nienstedt was being investigated by law enforcement for possible inappropriate touching of a minor during a confirmation ceremony. What the public was not told was that he was also being investigated internally for additional allegations involving priests, former priests, and seminarians. That investigation apparently continues, with at least two outside attorneys being hired to, depending on who you ask, either redact the previously sworn statements or 'tie up loose ends'.
3). Who's the Boss?
That is a question you hear a lot these days, and the general response seems to be 'no one'. Although the Archbishop no longer feels it necessary that he step down while he is being investigated, it has been months since he has had the appearance of leading the Archdiocese. Persistent rumors suggest that Nienstedt will either resign or be removed shortly after a bankruptcy filing, and it has been suggested that former auxiliary and now-Bishop of Des Moines, Richard Pates, will be appointed to serve as apostolic administrator until a successor can be found. Certain aspects of these rumors make them appear plausible, although I am not quite willing to accept them as more than rumors at this time.
Still, his appointment- if such would be made- would have two disadvantages. First, it is likely to be only temporary, which means that another upheaval would be on the horizon. Second, he is- even through no fault of his own-tainted by association. In my mind many of the problems that have and do exist in this Archdiocese have come about because of a tendency on the part of Archdiocesan leaders (dating back at least to Archbishop Roach, if not before) to be entirely self-referential. The only way to effectively move beyond this is to bring in new blood at all levels of the archdiocesan administration.
4). More Disclosures
It would be fair to describe the present state of the Archdiocese as a 'police state'. Almost all of the Chancery staff tasked with working with clergy are from law enforcement, which is not a healthy or sustainable way for the Church to operate. It is also unnecessary. The disciplinary problems facing the Archdiocese were not hidden or misunderstood. We were very much aware of them. Our ability to act appropriately was not hindered by a lack of knowledge or experience, it was hindered by a reluctance on the part of the leadership to apply the very clear standards that had been set. Appointing law enforcement agents to manage clergy personnel was an attempt by those leaders to retain power by assuring the public that they had effectively surrendered decision-making to others more worthy of trust. The incoming Archbishop, whoever he may be, will likely not be willing to continue with this state of affairs, nor should he. My only question is whether it will fall on him, or a temporary administrator, to roll back many of these policies and appointments.
5.) Ut omnes unum sint