MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis made mistakes in the way it handled allegations of clergy sexual misconduct in the last decade, Archbishop John Nienstedt acknowledged Thursday as he pledged to take new steps to protect the faithful.
Nienstedt apologized to victims in his comments posted on the website of The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocese's official newspaper, and said he knows the ultimate responsibility is his as the head of the local church.
"My heart is heavy with the agony that these errors have caused," he wrote.
The archdiocese has come under fire since a whistleblower claimed that church leaders mishandled abuse allegations.
"The first thing that must be acknowledged is that over the last decade some serious mistakes have been made," Nienstandt wrote.
In an email to Minnesota Public Radio News on Wednesday, Nienstedt denied any cover-up of abuse. He repeated the archdiocese's assertion that there are no offending priests in active ministry. He also said he has not offered to resign.
Nienstedt has denied interview requests from The Associated Press
He wrote Thursday that there's reason to question whether policies were uniformly followed, as well as a question about the "prudence of the judgments that have been made." He has already set up a task force to review church policies, and said he is committed to implementing their recommendations.
Nienstedt pledged to do more. He's ordered an outside review of all priest files, and he said he would recommit himself to never knowingly assign a clergy member to a parish or school if he has concerns that the clergy member will cause harm. He promised a rigorous analysis of priests before assignments are made.
"We must also be committed to honestly and transparency," he wrote. "This must be the result of our own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal."
Niendstedt said the church must cooperate with civil authorities.
He also said media reports and letters from Catholics and the general public have made him "aware that there is real fear that some priests in ministry today constitute a danger to children.
"I could never knowingly allow such a situation," he said.