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John Clayton Nienstedt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

His Excellency, The Most Reverend
John Clayton Nienstedt
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Church Roman Catholic Church
Archdiocese Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Appointed April 24, 2007 (Coadjutor)
Installed May 2, 2008
Term ended June 15, 2015
Predecessor Harry Flynn
Successor Bernard Hebda
Ordination July 27, 1974
Consecration July 9, 1996
by Adam Maida, James Aloysius Hickey, Edmund Szoka
Personal details
Born (1947-03-18) March 18, 1947 (age 71)
Detroit, Michigan
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Residence Napa Valley, California
Previous post
Alma mater
Motto Ut omnes unum sint
Styles of
John Clayton Nienstedt
Coat of arms of John Clayton Nienstedt.svg
Reference style
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Archbishop
Ordination history of
John Clayton Nienstedt
Diaconal ordination
Date of ordination April 29, 1972
Place of ordination Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy
Priestly ordination
Date of ordination July 27, 1974
Place of ordination Sacred Heard Church, Dearborn, MI
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecrator Adam Joseph Maida
Co-consecrators James Aloysius Cardinal Hickey,
Edmund Casimir Szoka
Date of consecration July 9, 1996
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by John Clayton Nienstedt as principal consecrator
John Marvin LeVoir December 15, 2008
Lee Anthony Piché June 29, 2009
Paul David Sirba December 14, 2009
Robert Dwayne Gruss July 28, 2011
David Dennis Kagan November 30, 2011
John Thomas Folda June 19, 2013
Andrew H. Cozzens December 9, 2013

John Clayton Nienstedt (born March 18, 1947) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the eighth Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 2008 to 2015. He previously served as Bishop of New Ulm from 2001 to 2007.

Early life and education

John Nienstedt was born in Detroit, Michigan, to John C. and Elizabeth S. (née Kennedy) Nienstedt.[1] The second oldest of six children, he has two brothers, Richard and Michael, and three sisters, Barbara, Mary, and Corinne.[2]

He graduated in 1969 from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit with Bachelor of Arts degree, before studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Sacred Theology in 1972.[1] On April 29, 1972, he was ordained a deacon at the Pontifical North American College.[2] He also received a licentiate and doctorate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Institute of St. Alphonsus in 1977; his doctoral thesis was entitled, "Human Life in a Test-tube; the Moral Dimension of In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo transfer."[1]


Nienstedt was ordained a priest on July 27, 1974, in the United States.[3] He then served as an associate pastor at Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson until 1976. He became secretary to Cardinal John Francis Dearden and a part-time professor of moral theology at St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth in 1977.[1] He was also a weekend associate pastor at St. Fabian's Parish in Farmington Hills and at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington. He became vicar general for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1979.[1] He accompanied Cardinal Dearden to the August 1978 papal conclave, where he met the future Pope John Paul II.[4]

In 1980, Nienstedt was assigned to the English desk of the Vatican Secretariat of State. While in Rome, he also served as a chaplain at Baby Jesus Hospital (1980–83) and to the Brothers of Holy Cross (1981–84). He earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Institute of St. Alphonsus in 1985.[citation needed]

In early 1986, he was named temporary assistant pastor at St. Regis Church in Birmingham and adjunct professor of moral theology at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake.[5] He was made pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Union Lake in July that year.[1] In 1987, Nienstedt was appointed to reorganize his alma mater Sacred Heart Seminary. He became its Rector in 1988.[5] He became a Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in 1990 and pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak in 1994.[1]


On June 12, 1996, Nienstedt was appointed auxiliary bishop of Detroit and titular bishop of Alton by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following July 9 from Cardinal Adam Maida, with Cardinals James Aloysius Hickey and Edmund Szoka serving as co-consecrators.[3] He selected as his episcopal motto: Ut Omnes Unum Sint, 'That All May Be One' (John 17:21).

As an auxiliary of Detroit, Nienstedt served as Episcopal Vicar for the Dearborn, Downriver, Monroe, Northwest Wayne, Southland, and Western Wayne vicariates.[1]

Nienstedt was named the third Bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, on June 12, 2001.[3] Replacing Raymond A. Lucker, he was installed on the August 6.[3] He denounced the more progressive views of his predecessor shortly after his arrival.[6] Despite his self-confessed "love for the Tridentine liturgy", in 2005 he denied a request for burial according to the Tridentine rite.[7] Discussing the Terri Schiavo case, he stated, "Her case demonstrates the disparity that exists in this country between laws and basic moral principles. While we cannot legislate morality, we ought not to be legislating immorality."[8] He warned that the film Brokeback Mountain was part of the agenda that "severs the connection between marriage and gender". He summarized the plot–"one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex"–and called it "a story of lust gone bad".[9]

During his tenure, he served as Chairman of the Committee on Priestly Formation] and a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[10]


On April 24, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Nienstedt coadjutor archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,[3] the designated successor to Archbishop Harry Flynn, who was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. Both Nienstedt's parents died in the course of six weeks in the winter of 2007.[11]

When Flynn's retirement was accepted on May 2, 2008, Nienstedt succeeded him as the eighth Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.[3] He received the pallium, a vestment worn by metropolitan bishops, from Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Basilica on June 29, 2008.[12] Shortly after becoming archbishop, he discontinued the gay pride prayer service that was held at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis;[13] he had previously described homosexuality as a "result of psychological trauma" that "must be understood in the context of other human disorders: envy, malice, greed, etc."[14] He declined numerous invitations to attend the 2008 Republican National Convention, which was held in St. Paul.[15] During the 2008 presidential election, Nienstedt criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said she had a "misinterpretation on the question of when life begins" and that her "remarks underscore once again the need for Catholics, and especially Catholic politicians, to form their consciences according to the moral truths taught by the Catholic Church."[16] He has also criticized the Freedom of Choice Act, saying, "It is hard to imagine a more radical piece of pro-abortion legislation."[17]

Strategic planning

In October 2010, Nienstedt announced a strategic plan that called for 21 parishes to be merged into 14 neighboring parishes. An appeal process was put in place which included information about the right to appeal announced parish mergers to the Holy See. All appeals were had run their course by early 2012. Decisions regarding buildings and other property of the merged parishes were made by local leaders in consultation with the archbishop and a representative body of priests. These and two layer mergers reduced the number of parishes from 213 in October 2010 to 188 in July 2013. The mergers involve parishes across the Archdiocese.[18]

Positions on public issues

In October 2012, Nienstedt used more than $600,000 in Archdiocesan funds to promote the approval of Minnesota Amendment 1 to ban same-sex marriage in the state. Minnesotans rejected the amendment at the polls on November 6, 2012, by five percentage points.[19][20][21] Over Nienstedt's continued opposition the next session of the state legislature approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage,[22][23] which the governor signed on May 14, 2013.[24]

Nienstedt upholds the Catholic teaching of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. He has stated that Satan is behind sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography and the redefinition of marriage.[25] He opposes stem cell research involving discarded human embryo stem cell lines, and later bar-closing times.[11]

Abuse allegations

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced on December 17, 2013, that Nienstedt had voluntarily "stepped aside from all public ministry" while police investigated an allegation that he touched a boy on the buttocks.[26] Nienstedt persistently maintained that this allegation against him was "absolutely and entirely false."[27] On March 11, 2014, he returned to public ministry after an investigation by the civil authorities failed to find any evidence against him.[28]

Alleged sexual misconduct

In July 2014, it was announced that Nienstedt was under a non-criminal investigation by his diocese for "sexual misconduct with men."[29] He commented saying "I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone. ... The allegations do not involve minors or lay members of the faithful, and they do not implicate any kind of illegal or criminal behavior."[30]

Handling of accusations of priestly sexual abuse

The archbishop has been criticized for the way "his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests".[31] Nienstedt responded in summer 2014, writing in a diocesan publication that although "it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past ... I have never knowingly covered up clergy sexual abuse [and] I promise to make changes".[32]

Six priests have publicly criticized Nienstedt's handling of the allegations, with some calling for his resignation. Nienstedt has said that the only way he would resign is if the papal nuncio took action.[33]

Nienstedt testified under oath in 2014 about his knowledge of priests accused of child sexual abuse. He said in an April 2, 2014 deposition that he hadn't known until March 2014 that a Rev. Kenneth LaVan, a priest accused in the 1980s of sexual assault of at least one teenage girl and "sexually exploiting" several women, was still in ministry in violation of church policy. Documents released in August 2014 as part of a lawsuit against the Archdiocese showed that the archbishop received updates on LaVan and approved his continuing work at Twin Cities parishes, as recently as August 15, 2013. The documents also indicate that Nienstedt had spent time socially with LaVan, as recently as June 2013.[34] Nienstedt also testified under oath that he had first learned of the criminal conviction of the Rev. Gilbert Gustafson, an archdiocesan priest, "during the last six months", and claimed little knowledge of Gustafson. Documents subsequently released by Minnesota Public Radio in October 2014 showed that Nienstedt had been informed by letter by a parish director of music in 2008 of Gustafson's prior criminal convictions for sexual assault of boys, and that Nienstedt had replied to the letters.[35]


On June 15, 2015, Pope Francis accepted Nienstedt's resignation along with that of Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piché, at ages 68 and 57, respectively. Both cited in their resignations the provision of canon law that allows a bishop to resign when some "grave reason" makes it impossible to continue to fulfill his duties.[36] The resignations followed the announcement on June 5 that a Minnesota prosecutor was bringing criminal charges and initiating a civil suit against the archdiocese for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.[37] Nienstedt issued a statement that said he resigned "with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults." Pope Francis named Bernard Hebda, Coadjutor Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, to serve as the Archdiocese's Apostolic Administrator; Hebda was later named Archbishop-designate and was installed on May 13, 2016.[38]

After resignation

After he resigned his position in Minnesota, Nienstedt returned to Michigan, where he has a home on Lake Huron.[39] In 2016, he served briefly as substitute priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo,[40] but quit after only a week due to objections from local parishioners in Battle Creek.[41][42] He moved again in 2016 to Napa Valley, California.[43]

In July 2016, documents related to the investigation by the diocese into Nienstedt were released.[44][45] He retains his status as an archbishop.[46]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Meet Archbishop Nienstedt". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Curriculum Vitae". Roman Catholic Diocese of New Ulm. Archived from the original on October 7, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt". [self-published source]
  4. ^ "Reflections on Pope John Paul II". Roman Catholic Diocese of New Ulm. April 2, 2005. Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b "Bishop Nienstedt Named to New Ulm; Coadjutor Appointed for Fargo". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. June 12, 2001. 
  6. ^ McClory, Robert J. (May 7, 2004). "Bishop takes issue with late predecessor". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ [
  8. ^ "Death of Terri Schiavo". Roman Catholic Diocese of New Ulm. March 31, 2005. Archived from the original on October 15, 2008. 
  9. ^ Nienstedt, John C. (February 2006). "And miles to go". Diocese of New Ulm. Archived from the original on February 12, 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2018. 
  10. ^ Thavis, John (December 13, 2004). "Vatican firms up plans for U.S. seminary visitation in 2005". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on December 14, 2004. 
  11. ^ a b Strickler, Jeff (May 10, 2008). "Archbishop John Nienstedt: His own man". The Star Tribune. 
  12. ^ Glatz, Carol (June 30, 2008). "Pope gives palliums to archbishops, says church's mission is to unite". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. 
  13. ^ Kersten, Katherine (June 29, 2008). "The real story behind the gay pride issue at St. Joan". Star Tribune. 
  14. ^ Hanners, David (April 24, 2007). "Conservative bishop to succeed Flynn: A lauded liturgist, administrator, New Ulm conservative also is known for controversy". Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. 
  15. ^ Muth, Chaz (September 5, 2008). "Catholic clergy offer prayers at Republican National Convention". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on September 9, 2008. 
  16. ^ Nienstedt, John. "Statement Challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Statement on Abortion". Priests for Life. 
  17. ^ Nienstedt, John (October 29, 2008). "Freedom of Choice Act is bad legislation". The Catholic Spirit. 
  18. ^ "Strategic planning in Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis 2009-2010". Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "Minnesota voters reject marriage amendment". MPR. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Amendment, Amendment 1 (2012)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Setting record straight on assessments, archdiocesan finances". The Catholic Spirit. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Minnesota Senate joins House in approving same-sex marriage". MinnPost. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Minnesota Senate Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage". ABC News. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Minnesota now 12th state to approve gay marriage". NBC News. Archived from the original on May 17, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Twin Cities Catholic leader courts controversy claiming Satan to blame for gay marriage, condoms". Daily News. New York. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Archbishop John Nienstedt's years in the Twin Cities". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Letter from Archbishop Nienstedt regarding allegation",, Sunday December 17, 2013.
  28. ^ "Archbishop Nienstedt returns to public ministry". The Catholic Spirit. Retrieved March 14, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Archbishop Nienstedt: New allegations of sexual misconduct 'entirely false'". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2014. 
  30. ^ Badash, David. "Breaking: Anti-Gay Catholic Archbishop Investigated For Sexual Misconduct With Men". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved July 2, 2014. 
  31. ^ Paulson, Michael, "Archbishop, Under Fire Over Abuse, Apologizes but Says He Won’t Resign", New York Times, July 30, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  32. ^ Nienstedt, Archbishop John C., "Tough lessons lead to significant changes", July 30, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  33. ^ Hopfensperger, Jean (September 2, 2014). "Minneapolis priest says Archbishop Nienstedt must resign if church is to heal". Star Tribune. 
  34. ^ "New documents show falsehoods in Nienstedt testimony". Minnesota Public Radio. August 11, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Documents contradict Nienstedt testimony on priest's sexual assault". Minnesota Public Radio. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  36. ^ San Martín, Inés (June 15, 2015). "Archbishop Nienstedt resigns after sex abuse coverup charges against archdiocese". Crux. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  37. ^ Smith, Mitch (June 5, 2015). "Catholic Archdiocese in Minnesota Charged Over Sex Abuse by Priest". New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  38. ^ Schneible, Ann (June 15, 2015). "Minn. archbishop resigns with 'clear conscience' amid sex abuse charges". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  39. ^ Tom Lyden (May 4, 2016). "Former Archbishop Nienstedt's never-revealed secret". KMSP-TV. Retrieved May 24, 2016. 
  40. ^ Cox, Peter (January 13, 2016). "Ex-Twin Cities archbishop Nienstedt takes Michigan church post". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  41. ^ "Ex-Archbishop Nienstedt leaves Michigan church over parishioner concerns". KMSP-TV. January 21, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016. 
  42. ^ John D. Fleckenstein (January 21, 2016). "Dear members of the Battle Creek Area Catholic Community" (PDF). St. Philip Roman Catholic Church. Retrieved January 21, 2016. 
  43. ^ Chris Smith (August 27, 2016). "Napa County now home for John Nienstedt, Twin Cities archbishop who resigned under legal cloud". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  44. ^ Yuen, Laura; Cox, Peter (July 21, 2016). "Did the Vatican halt an investigation into former Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt?". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved July 23, 2016. 
  45. ^ Yuen, Laura (July 29, 2016). "Documents detail sex, harassment complaints against Nienstedt". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  46. ^ Goodstein, Laurie; Perez-Pena, Richard (July 20, 2016). "Minnesota Priest's Memo Says Vatican Ambassador Tried to Stifle Sex Abuse Inquiry". New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2016. 

External links

Episcopal succession

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Harry Flynn
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
May 2, 2008 – June 15, 2015
Succeeded by
Bernard Hebda
Preceded by
Raymond Alphonse Lucker
Bishop of New Ulm
August 6, 2001 – April 24, 2007
Succeeded by
John M. LeVoir
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Detrot
July 9, 1996 - August 6, 2001
Succeeded by
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