Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Edina on Sunday regarding priest sexual misconduct and the failure to release those accused, admitting he "should have investigated it a lot more than [he] did."
The Parish published an online copy of his speech before it was read aloud on Sunday.
According to the Archdiocese, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Edina had invited Nienstedt to deliver a message of hope to highlight this Christmas season. However, a preview of the homily online reveals an apology, a plan to do more for victims and a hope to rebuild trust with Catholics.
The homily reads, in part:
"My dear friends, I suggest to you Saint Josephine as a patroness, an intercessor for the trials that we have been going through these past ten weeks here in the Archdiocese.
The negative news reports about past incidents of clerical sexual abuse in this local Church have rightly been met with shame, embarrassment and outrage that such heinous acts could be perpetrated by men who had taken priestly vows as well as bishops who failed to remove them from ministry.
I am here to apologize for the indignation that you justifiably feel. You deserve better. While only one of the crimes against minors has happened in this Archdiocese since 2002, that is still one too many. But, if we review carefully the list of 34 priests that was disclosed a week ago in The Catholic Spirit, the majority of those allegations go back to the 1970's and 1980's. Again, that is not to excuse those actions or diminish the harm done to their victims. But it does indicate that progress is being made in reducing the incidence of such terrible misconduct. There is reason, even now, to be hopeful.
Throughout the past three months, my staff and I have committed to four critical goals:
1) To ensure safe environments for everyone in our Churches, Catholic schools or religious programs, especially minors and vulnerable adults;
2) To reach out to victims so as to promote their process of healing;
3) To regain the trust of our Catholic faithful;
4) To reassure our clergy of our deep and abiding gratitude for their tireless and self-giving service, and to assure them of our commitment to them and to their legal and canonical rights.
With your prayer and God's grace, I believe that we will emerge from this difficult period to become a stronger, more focused, more prayerful and more purified local Church. But the key to that process lies in our ability to remain a people of hope—hope not in our own resources, but rather hope in the person of Jesus Christ, who can make all things new.
My brothers and sisters, the Holy Eucharist that we receive today is not just informative, assuring us that we are loved by the Lord in a personal and intimate way. This Holy Eucharist is also performative, meaning that it can make us a people of action who can address past wrongs and find ways to do better in the future.
Even in the midst of the unwanted media attention we are experiencing these days, let us never forget that we are an Advent people, a people of hope. Let us pray that the Lord will fill us with an abundance of that great virtue, so that we can, like St. Josephine Bakhita, transform the present situation before us into something salvific, saved by our hope in the Lord Jesus."
NIENSTEDT: 'I OVERLOOKED THIS'
Archbishop Nienstedt held a news conference after he gave the speech, admitting he overlooked investigations, originally believing they had been previously addressed. He also offered up the following statements in connection with the scandal:
"When I arrived here 7 years ago one of the first things I was told is that this whole question of sexual abuse had been taken care of. I didn't have to worry about it, unfortunately I believed that."
"I overlooked this, I should have investigated it a lot more than I did."
"When the stories started to break at the end of September I was as surprised as anyone else."
"I have to stand before the community and say in all honesty that I can tell people there is no one in the ministry that will be a danger to their child."
"This is an important thing we get right and we hope that working with our communications department you will get the truth and that we'll get the story straight."
At St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis, some parishioners took a moment to read the Sunday homily with mixed reactions.
"He is apologizing -- he's apologizing for others actions. But before you apologize, you need to explain your own actions. That's what he's failed to do," Father Mike Tegeder of St. Francis Cabrini said.
Tegeder remains critical of the way Archbishop Nienstedt is handling the growing allegations in recent months of priest sexual misconduct and possible cover ups and wants to know why a court order was needed to release the names of 34 priests last week, accused of child sex abuse.
"I have hope definitely that we can get through this, but I don't think he's the one who can get us through this," he said.
Archbishop Nienstedt also is expected to mention in the homily the majority of the allegations against those 34 priests go back to the 1970's and 80's, showing progress is being made.
The same court order requires the Diocese of Winona to release its own list of accused priests by Tuesday.