St. Paul/Minn Archbishop loves to talk about child porn, hates to report it

In July, I blogged about how institutions should not be in the child sex abuse investigation business. Little did I know that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis would prove me right so quickly.

Here’s a recap from what we learned yesterday from Minnesota Public Radio (emphasis mine):

Archbishop John Nienstedt was in the middle of a heated political fight over same-sex marriage in February of last year when he learned of a disturbing secret, hidden in the basement of the chancery — pornography from a priest’s computer, some of which appeared to depict children.

Canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger had uncovered several computer discs and a white three-ring binder kept in the basement archives of the chancery building — the headquarters of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was evidence from a 2004 internal investigation of sexually explicit images found on the computer of the Rev. Jonathan Shelley, then pastor of St. Jude of the Lake church in Mahtomedi, Minn.

Haselberger, a firebrand top official who joined the archdiocese in 2008, notified Nienstedt of the evidence, which included a report at the time from a private investigator that found that many of the depictions “could be considered illegal, because of the youthful-looking male image.”

According to church documents, the computer actually held child abuse images of boys under 14. You know, the illegal kind.

So what did Nienstedt do? He wrote letters and memos. Lots of them. He wrote to the Vatican, saying that the images could expose the Archdiocese to criminal charges. He wrote his deputies and they nit-picked over whether the images were “technically” child pornography (which many of them were). They hemmed and hawed over Canon law.

Did they call the cops? Hell, no. In fact, they fired the woman who eventually did.


Now that the media has caught wind, the Archdiocese is closing ranks and putting together an independent review committee to look into the matter. The Archdiocese finally turned the computer over to the cops this week.

Five points are important to note here:

  1. Institutions like the Catholic church cannot be in the child sex abuse investigation business. Why? Because they don’t give a crap about kids. This case proves it. Again. Archbishop Nienstedt is morally bankrupt and a shame to every Catholic.
  2. The church’s stance on child pornography is laughable (and downright dangerous). Remember: child pornography is/are photos of CHILDREN BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED. There IS a victim there. That’s why it’s a violation of federal law. However, time and time again (Kansas City, anyone?), church officials try to say it’s “not so bad” and a “victimless crime.” It ain’t. Just ask the kid in the picture. And what is especially galling is the fact that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis says that they hold true to zero tolerance. No, they don’t. If you spend a year discussing whether something is child pornography but don’t report it, you tolerate sex abusers. And you should be criminally liable.
  3. During this entire time, Archbishop Niestedt was using the bully pulpit to try and defeat marriage equality in the state, calling it “the work of Satan.” Really.
  4. The ONLY reason this is coming out is because of Minnesota’s civil window for adult victims of child sex abuse.
  5. Catholic bishops continually pontificate about how “abuse happens everywhere” and how they are being “unfairly targeted.” This case, once again, shows that the COVER-UP is equally horrific, sinful and criminal. If you commit a crime (as we are seeing here), law enforcement should target you. That is their job.

Be sure to read the whole article.

(Especially laughable is the description of when Fr. Shelly writes Neil Diamond for help. I can’t even do the letter justice here)

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