So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Archbishop Nienstedt under fire... again.

It wasn't long ago that Archbishop John Nienstedt was accused of touching a boy's buttocks during a very public Confirmation photo op. One would have thought that if there was any substance to the charges, the evidence would have been captured dozens of times over by parents armed with a multitude of cameras.
Almost four years after the confirmation, an incident report was filed with the police. Now, after an extensive and public investigation, photographic evidence, witness statements and all other evidence proved the utter impossibility of the allegation.—Deacon Keith Fournier, 3/13/2014. Catholic Online.
The charges were dropped due to a complete absence of evidence. By alleging impropriety and demanding satisfaction, Archbishop Nienstedt's accusers were, at best, misguided and overly zealous. At worst, they were liars and bullys. His Excellency had told the truth. The question is, who do we trust in this latest round of allegations? Who should we trust when the options are, on the one hand, a former employee of the Archdiocese who has chosen to make her case in the media, or on the other a man who has repeatedly demonstrated integrity in the face of unjust allegations?

The Archbishop has been accused of improper (i.e., sexual) acts with seminarians and other men. In an article published in that bastion of progressivism Commonweal Magazine, he is also accused of bullying those with whom he disagreed. Does anyone with an ounce of intelligence actually read Commonweal? Known for its frequently skewed and skewing editorials batted way left of centre at times, articles most likely written in an attempt to embolden its ever shrinking base of geriatric hippies while at the same time extracting as much needed cash they can to prop up their progressivist magazine, Commonweal has published an article largely constructed on the questionable word of angry people who deny Archbishop Nienstedt's faithful witness to christian doctrine. Unfortunately, the quality of the article's content has not deterred other tabloids—the National "Catholic" Reporter, Huffington Post, The Beast, et al—from joining the feeding frenzy. But, I digress.

Archbishop Nienstedt has denied any wrongdoing, and well he should given that his detractors read like a who's who of heretics and hedonists who, employing cruel means to discredit him, will settle for nothing less than the removal of a bishop who has proven himself to be a stalwart defendor of Catholic teaching on sexuality and all other matters. Therein lies the probable reason for this latest attack on the character of Archbishop Nienstedt. He actually teaches the Catholic Faith to those who do not want to practice it and who also do not want anyone else to be faithful to the Magisterium of Christ's Church.

One might glean from his forthright yet charitable approach to the hot button issues, and after taking into consideration the protests of a small but vocal chorus of disgruntled ex-associates, that Archbishop Nienstadt has never been one to back away from a challenge nor mollycoddle his peers or wayward ecclesiastical subordinates. He's a shepherd who knows that sheep can be as dumb as sticks and goats can be as stubborn as mules. He is a man of the crozier, and these days a whole mess of adolescent-minded adults resist being prodded by a shepherd who understands that the wolves are already in the sheepfold and it may very well be those wolves to whom he is speaking. In this instant, it appears that former diocesan goats have cobbled together other angry goats with a grudge against Nienstedt to form a lynch mob. He has outed them; to the disordered mind it's only fair to out him in retaliation.

Rev. Peter Laird, "whistleblower" and disgruntled ex-vicar general of the Archdiocese, is an oft quoted source being used by the mainstream muddlers to wage a war against His Excellency in the court of public opinion. The previous attack against Archbishop Nienstedt didn't have any substance and, given that the information released thus far amounts to nothing more than mere innuendo, those making disparaging remarks are merely making themselves look like conspiracy nuts with an axe to grind. Another individual, a former canonist with the Archdiocese and another media designated whistleblower, Jennifer Haselberger, resigned when she claimed church leaders were not listening to her concerns over alleged clergy abuse. What is often omitted by the overly zealous critics of Nienstedt is that the Archbishop established a task force to ensure transparency and compliance with diocesan policy, canon law and the law of the land. 

Is Ms. Haselbeger's gripe fuelled by an inflated sense of self importance and a need for recognition for a role she performed in tackling the scourge of clergy abuse of minors? Ms. Haselberger resigned her position "in protest" after the Archdiocese contracted a prominent law firm to conduct an investigation of Nienstedt's former staff and associates. The terms of her resignation have not been disclosed. No one has thus far probed deeply enough to exclude the possibility that her anger and frustration might be due to being caught for something inappropriate she did that was seen as less than constructive by the lawyers and the Nienstedt administration. Why has a trained canonist, albeit one who is frustrated by alleged obstacles to the administration of justice, tossed her complaints into the mainstream media when she could have gone to any local prosecutor or state attorney general with her concerns? Does the fact she has chosen to make her case in the media seriously undermines her own credibility? If she really has the evidence that she claims to possess, why not take it to the authorities and let them handle matters? As it is, her actions give the appearance she is only interested in serving her self. Is she more interested in being lauded as Jane-the-Giant-Killer than being praised as a faithful steward of the facts?

Living in the disgusting aftermath of a generation of liberal bishops who fudged the facts, most if not all bishops are especially sensitive to and eager to avoid any appearance of a coverup. If—and this is a big 'if'—Archbishop Nienstedt has fallen in the past and his actions merit the force of censure and removal, then surely the wrong way to go about all this is to try him in the media, a nearly useless arena in which to conduct a professional investigation that requires a thorough and dispassionate consideration of the facts. The Church does have avenues in which any person, lay or ordained, can launch a canonical review of any Catholic. Ms. Haselberger, a trained canonist, should know this. A lack of proper form is more likely an indication that Archbishop Nienstedt's critics are simply not willing to accord him a reasonable measure of respect that he deserves in a society that considers the accused to be innocent until proven guilty.

Ms. Haselberger's frustration, as portrayed by sympathetic media, seems to have fuelled in her a willingness to characterize accusations as foregone conclusions that are having the intended or unintended effect of poisoning Archbishop Nienstedt's reputation. When it comes to fair play, let it be said that those with an axe to grind are often blinded by the glint of the blade as they swing it wildly in the air not caring who or how many they injure in the process.

Is it fair to say that Ms. Haselberger does little to convince readers that her reason for coming forward is anything less than an attempt to settle a score with Archbishop Nienstedt?
"Based on my interview with Greene Espel (the law firm contracted by Archbishop Nienstedt to conduct a review of diocesan proceedings)—as well as conversations with other interviewees—I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis(.)"
Ms. Haselberger's statement has the appearance of an authoritative statement, but it is not authoritative in the least. In fact, it is merely speculative. If she really believes that what she is saying is factual, then why not say she knows that there are credible allegations? If she means to state a fact, then why does she use an expression that is limp at best and which has the effect of damning another while preserving her own saintly deriérre? We can only assume that the reporter who took the statement accurately captured Ms. Haselberger's choice of words.

What about those "ten sworn statements"? Apparently, those responsible for the statements are adults fully capable of obtaining counsel and are equally capable of bringing their complaints to the media. They may be reluctant to identify themselves for a variety of reasons, none of which relieve them from a responsibility to stand up for the truth, especially when their testimony carries the potential of destroying the reputation of a public figure that many see as strong opposition to the liberal agenda.

If—and once again this is a big 'if'—this is another Cardinal O'Brien scenario, then why haven't the men with whom Archbishop Nienstedt allegedly carried on in an inappropriate manner brought their charges into an appropriate forum? Archbishop Nienstedt himself has stated, i.e., not through any intermediary but directly, that the only allegation is of “'improper touching (of the person’s neck),' and was made by a former priest." A former priest, not a priest in good standing. Let's not be naive. There is no secular court that would indict consenting adults for their sexual antics behind closed doors, which is not to say that consent lends legitimacy to sexual acts between adults who are in sinful relationships. Nor am I saying that the Archbishop is guilty of committing the acts of which he is accused. The amoral, unable to assume culpability for their actions and unwilling to cease unhealthy behaviours, too often seek to discredit others because they hate another who may be trying to turn his or her life around. They interpret someone's condemnation of their former lifestyle as an indictment of their own bad behaviour and character. The unrepentant sinner sees a hypocrite; God sees a repentant sinner. The Church, acting with the authority given her by Jesus Christ, is the only competent judge to determine whether or not Archbishop Nienstedt acted in a manner unbefitting his vocation and office, not the court of public opinion.

As recently as the 26th of July, another attack on the character of Archbishop Nienstedt joined the chorus calling for his resignation due to "an inability to lead". The headline reads: "To heal church, Nienstedt must go". No—the prevaricators of unsubstantiated accusations and rumour must go. Frustrated that their efforts to dislodge a faithful bishop have met with no success, they resort to flinging more mud at his personal life knowing that people who hate the Church see the theft of personal moral integrity as an opportunity to steal the office of a bishop. What is overlooked is that those who are calling for the Archbishop's resignation are the same contentious individuals who oppose his leadership in the defence of marriage, for example, which really makes such calls for Archbishop Nienstedt to resign merely hollow, small minded attempts to remove someone they see as the enemy. By indicting Archbishop Nienstedt in their respective gossip columns rather than a legitimate court that would soon dispel any accusations as hearsay, Archbishop Nienstedt's enemies merely expose their weak and corrupt attempts to undermine the authority of a bishop who is faithful to the teaching of the Church. Furthermore, they expose themselves to be the hypocrites they claim Nienstedt to be. In effect, Archbishop Nienstedt's critics are saying you are a liability and obstacle to communion if you are faithful to the Magisterium. If you are a licentious liberal, that's a whole other story. President William Jefferson Clinton managed to lie his way out of a lie when faced with impeachment. His media lackeys jumped to his defence and were eager to attack the character of his accusers in order to deflect criticism away from slick Willy. Archbishop Nienstedt's fault has been keeping in his archdiocese far too many backbiting and permissive progressives who have been more part of the problem than the solution.

All of this backbiting by Nienstedt's detractors reminds one of a classroom hijacked by a couple of misbehaving teenagers who, failing to cease acting up, quiet down and return to their desks at the request of the teacher, blame the teacher for inhibiting their fun. It's all the teacher's fault for insisting that the classroom is for learning.

The editors at Commonweal, GnatCathReporter, et al, do little to convince the reader that they are not part of a conspiracy of a sort commonly practiced by those who, failing actual evidence proving guilt, convict in the media someone they see as their enemy. Archbishop Nienstedt certainly has more than his fair share of enemies. The aforementioned tactic is a rather simple and obvious one: fling a heap of unproven and even disproven allegations into a biased forum and create suspicion. Empty suspicion, mind you, and nothing more. The goal is to make things stick in the minds of uncritical thinkers. Unfortunately, such empty suspicion too often sticks in the empty minds of low-information Catholics and people of ill-will. We now live in a culture massaged by big media sellers of the news and where people have abdicated their responsibility to parse information in a responsible way. Instead, we leave analysis up to journalists who are more propagandists and opinion makers than reporters of the facts. Most contemporary journalists have abandoned their role of dispassionate presenters of the facts by trading the value of honest reporting for a bigger market share of consumable news, i.e., profit. Thus, journalists have lost the dignity of their profession and have lost their role that is so vital to a functioning democracy. A true democracy depends on the unbiased presentation of information to inform the populace so that a good and true government which serves the people may be derived from the citizenry. If the community is corrupt, can a government drawn from a pool of morally bankrupt citizens be any less corrupt?

There are so many within and outside the Church who, possessing little or no sense of ethical conduct of any kind, will bully a faithful Archbishop into bloodied submission simply because he defends the Church's teaching with vim and vigour. Pray that justice and charity may be served.

If you can spare a prayer for the embattled Archbishop, please do so. Archbishop Nienstedt has repeatedly appealed to others' sense of decency and integrity while being denied a fair assessment of the facts. Even if a worse case scenario develops, i.e., Archbishop Nienstedt is proven to have acted in an inappropriate manner, his good work in defence of the Faith will not be diminished. Those "faithful Catholics" who are calling for Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation and/or removal should remember that he has only stood for Catholic teaching. If they have a problem with the Church's teaching, they should remove themselves before they dig at the alleged plank in Archbishop Nienstedt's eye.

Bishops are convenient targets. In this day and age when people seem far too eager to buy into mere gossip lobbed at public leaders by disgruntled former associates, there is little one can do to counter personal attacks but to let things run their course and let the diatribe of the chattering classes be exhausted due to lack of fuel. That, and one should insist that due process and professionalism be observed. Accusers should seriously rethink their reasons for engaging in smear tactics and campaigns to undermine the character of one's peers lest they leave themselves open to a charge of being nothing more than an adult version of a grade school bully. Teenagers are not the only ones using social media to bully their peers.

Saint Michael, mighty seraph: pray for Archbishop Nienstedt.

Archbishop Nienstedt not stepping down.

+ + +

Counsel from Joe Heschmeyer at Shameless Popery:
In summary, there are four major points we should draw from Scripture and the Church Fathers:
  1. Obey the bishops, even if we disagree with their approach. Many of the issues dividing Catholics are ones on which people can take different views in good conscience. On these issues, we can have our own opinions, but when the rubber hits the road, we should obey the bishops. This includes, at a bare minimum, not undermining what the bishops are doing. That undermining is the behavior that tears at the Body of Christ, and that Ignatius denounces as the work of the devil.
  2. Obey the Gospel, even if an authority teaches otherwise. While we should exercise complete obedience towards the bishops, this doesn't mean doing something contrary the Gospel. As the Church explained in Dignitatis Humane, “In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.” To simplify: if a person in authority over you (be they a parent, boss, president, priest, or bishop) tells you to do something stupid, you should do it. But if they tell you to do something evil, you must not. In a secular context, this means that you should pay your income tax (Mk. 12:17), but not comply with the HHS Mandate.
  3. Treat the bishops with respect. Acts 23:1-5 is worth reading carefully. St. Paul is taken before the Sanhedrin, and protests his innocence. The high priest orders him to be slapped in the mouth, and St. Paul responds, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” (Acts 23:3). Those around Paul seem shocked by this, and ask, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?” (Acts 23:4). Then, something amazing happens. Paul apologizes, explaining that he didn't realize that the man who gave the order was the high priest: “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:5; Paul is quoting Exodus 22:28). Once he knew who he was dealing with, Paul refused to speak disrespectfully to the high priest -- even though the high priest ordered him slapped in the mouth. And we today cannot even afford to be respectful to our own bishops?
  4. Pray for religious and secular leadership. President Obama needs our prayers. So does Congress. So do bishops, priests, and deacons. We're called to pray for them at every Mass, but we should do so even more frequently. The worse the bishop or politician seems to be, the more they need your prayers. Plus, if what we believe about prayer is true, this will do a lot more good than simply kvetching about them on the Internet.
    —How we should we treat bishops and politicians. MARCH 7, 2012. Joe Heschmeyer.

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