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Basilica priest calls on Twin Cities archdiocese to release Nienstedt probe details


MINNEAPOLIS — A prominent Catholic pastor has called on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to release details of an internal investigation into former Archbishop John Nienstedt.

The Rev. John Bauer, head pastor of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, said releasing the details is imperative if the archdiocese is to move forward.

Refusing to share the archdiocese-commissioned investigation, Bauer wrote in an open letter on his blog Thursday, suggests that "the Archdiocese has not been transparent, honest and forthcoming in the information it is has shared with the faithful."

Bauer cited findings from a Minnesota Public Radio News report that found Nienstedt limited an investigation into his conduct, even though he had authorized it.

MPR reported the law firm hired by the archdiocese took statements that accused Nienstedt of inappropriate behavior, including sexual advances to at least two priests. Nienstedt has denied any inappropriate conduct. He resigned this month after charges were filed against the archdiocese for failing to protect children from a priest later convicted of molesting two boys.

On his blog, Bauer wrote that since archdiocesan funds were used to pay for the investigation, "the right of the faithful to this information outweighs any objections."

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the archdiocese's temporary caretaker, said Saturday he takes the points Bauer raised seriously.

"I will continue to meet with as many people as I can so that I may better understand the complexities of this situation and respond accordingly," Hebda said in a statement released by the archdiocese.

Bauer has not publicly criticized Nienstedt in the past, the Star Tribune reported. He declined to comment further to the newspaper.

His letter brought mixed reactions Friday among Twin Cities Catholics. Some said releasing the investigation would only prolong an agonizing episode for the church.

"I think it's time to move on," said Robert Kennedy, chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. "Pursuing this information, whatever it might be, does not promote that."

Jim Frey, a former archdiocese donor, argued that airing the reports would give the archdiocese "a clean break" from the past.

"Obviously, what is in these reports is serious and meaningful," Frey said. "We'll be better served by clearing the air, rather than have people continue to wonder what's in them. Otherwise, I believe there will always be a lingering question or mistrust."

This story has been corrected to show the former archbishop's last name is spelled Nienstedt instead of Neinstedt.

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