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Nienstedt denies misconduct, claims attacked for beliefs on gay marriage

ST. PAUL -- John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said accusations of sexual misconduct against him were part of a false smear campaign in response to his opposition to gay marriage.

ST. PAUL -- John Nienstedt, the former archbishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said accusations of sexual misconduct against him were part of a false smear campaign in response to his opposition to gay marriage.

Nienstedt’s denial came in a statement Wednesday night. That followed the release of internal church documents alleging the Vatican has sought to derail an independent investigation that turned up credible evidence against him.

Nienstedt resigned last year as archbishop and returned to his home state of Michigan. He was briefly involved with a diocese there but left when parishioners objected to his presence.

He said the accusations - which range from him frequenting gay clubs to making unwanted advances toward priests and seminary students - were decades old and baseless. He said he believes they’re “due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with Catholic Church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same sex marriage.

“Such personal attacks were first made when I defended the Church’s opposition to admitting openly homosexual men to the priesthood,” he said. “These attacks grew even more vicious when I began to speak out against so-called same sex marriage.”

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He said he also thinks the accusers “are bringing false allegations forward in retribution for difficult decisions I have made as their superior,” adding that privacy laws limit what we can say.

Nienstedt said he isn’t gay, has been celibate his whole life, and “never solicited sex, improperly touched anyone and have not used my authority to cover up, or even try to cover up, any allegation of sexual abuse.”

Some of the accusers said he interfered with their careers after they rebuked his advances. In internal memos released Wednesday, a priest with ties to the investigation said the law firm conducting it - which collected 10 sworn affidavits from accusers and others interviewed - found the allegations to be credible.

Nienstedt also apologized for the way the archdiocese handled sexual abuse allegations against Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest who eventually pleaded guilty to abusing boys. His statement did not address allegations from the internal memos that a social relationship with Wehmeyer compromised his ability to take action.

Meanwhile, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday that “the situation is complex” and that it needs more information before commenting.

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