MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and his top deputy resigned Monday as the top Catholic officials in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the wake of criminal sex abuse charges against the church.
In a statement, Nienstedt said he was resigning “to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face.”
Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche also resigned.
“The people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis need healing and hope. I was getting in the way of that, and so I had to resign,” Piche said in a statement.
On June 5, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi filed six criminal charges against the archdiocese accusing it of encouraging, causing or contributing to the sexual abuse of three victims by a priest in 2010 and 2011.
The priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, was convicted in February 2013 on 20 felony charges of sexual abuse against minors and possession of child pornography, according to the archdiocese.
Nienstedt, who had promoted Wehmeyer, said he leaves “with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.”
Nienstedt had faced allegations of his own, including a 2013 claim that he inappropriately touched a boy during a public photo session four years earlier. No charges were filed in that alleged incident.
In July 2014, additional allegations surfaced of “allleged misbehavior” that “did not involve anything criminal or with minors,” according to the archdiocese. At the time, Nienstedt called the allegations “absolutely and entirely false.”
Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda, another archdiocesan official, to serve as interim leader of the archdiocese until a permanent replacement for Nienstedt is named.