Sunday, July 19, 2015

Did Former Anti-Gay Archbishop Cruise Parks and Seek "Poppers"?

As noted in an earlier post today, a new study has found that the worse homophobes are likely closeted gays.  If you want a poster boy for this phenomenon, look no farther than former Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who has shown himself to be an extreme foe of LGBT rights and marriage equality and who resigned in disgrace under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.  Now, the Star Tribune is reporting that sworn affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest accuse Niensted of frequenting areas known for "cruising" by gay men, seeking poppers and frequenting a gay club.  All this on top of allegations of misconduct with priests and seminarians and failing to report abuse of minors by predator priests.  Here are story highlights:
Former Archbishop John Nienstedt said he remains “dumbfounded” by the allegations of personal misconduct that emerged last year during an internal church investigation of his behavior — a report that the archdiocese now is considering making public.

Commissioned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the probe looked into claims that Nienstedt had engaged in behavior that was inappropriate for a priest. The Star Tribune has learned that investigators collected affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest alleging actions, some dating to the Detroit area in the early 1980s, that range from inappropriate touching to visiting a gay nightclub.

Nienstedt resigned June 15, after Ramsey County prosecutors filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese, alleging “failure to protect children.”

Some priests and parishioners are pressing interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda to make last year’s investigation of Nienstedt public. He must balance those demands against the promise of confidentiality granted to those who participated in the investigation, as well as the possible implications — if any — it could have in the criminal case brought by Ramsey County.

The Star Tribune has confirmed that five Catholic priests, one former priest and a former seminarian were among those who provided affidavits.

In one affidavit, a priest in Harrison Township, Mich., reported seeing Nienstedt at a gay nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit in the 1980s. “I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap,” the Rev. Lawrence Ventline wrote in his affidavit. “He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him.”

Another affidavit from a Michigan priest said that Nienstedt pulled up to his car in an area frequented by gay men one December in the early 1980s and asked him if he had any “poppers,” an inhalant used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. When he got into Nienstedt’s car, and Nienstedt recognized him as a former student, he changed the subject, the priest told the Star Tribune.

A former seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, James Heathcott, also filed an affidavit. He said that Nienstedt — who was the seminary’s rector — expelled him after he refused an invitation to join Nienstedt and two other seminarians on a private weekend at a ski chalet in the late 1980s.

In addition, the Star Tribune obtained a 2014 letter sent by a former student at Sacred Heart Seminary to former auxiliary bishop Lee Pich√©, who oversaw the Nienstedt investigation, alleging that Nienstedt touched his buttocks after a dinner together one night between 2000 and 2002. Joseph Rangitsch said he protested and Nienstedt replied he could “make things unpleasant for you very quickly.”
Nienstedt denied all the allegations . . . . Nienstedt believes some of the accusations are “retribution” for his stance on social issues. As auxiliary bishop in Detroit, he ended the gay community’s use of a Catholic church for liturgies. In Minnesota, he led an unsuccessful campaign to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriages.
 That the Vatican happily accepted Nienstedt's resignation may indicate that despite Nienstedt's protestations, there may be fire beneath the smoke laid out in the affidavits.

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