Archbishop John Nienstedt, the notorious opponent of LGBT rights who heads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, announced today that he is voluntarily stepping aside in light of an allegation of inappropriate touching. He repeatedly and emphatically denies the allegations.
CBS Minnesota reports:
According to the Archdiocese, Nienstedt is accused of inappropriately touching a young boy on the buttocks during a group photo session after a confirmation ceremony in 2009.
Nienstedt has denied the allegation but will voluntarily step aside from public ministry, effective immediately, while an investigation into the incident takes place.
Once the Archdiocese learned of the allegation, they contacted police. They said in a statement on their website that they are ready to fully cooperate with the St. Paul Police's investigation.
Authorities said the investigation against Nienstedt began around 2 p.m. on Monday -- a day after he publicly apologized and addressed the media regarding sexual abuse allegations involving dozens of priests within the Diocese.
For the past several years, Nienstedt has inserted himself into the battle over civil marriage in Minnesota. He lobbied hard to add a marriage discrimination amendment to the state constitution (an effort that ultimately failed), and fought tooth and nail against the new marriage equality law. A list of his worst anti-LGBT moments is after the jump.
Independent of today's allegations, Nienstedt has been under heavy fire recently over claims that he and other archdiocesan officials covered up sexual abuse and possession of child pornography by priests. The scandal has shaken the faith of many in the archdiocese and eroded confidence in Nienstedt's leadership. Some parishioners and even priests have called on him to resign.
The Archbishop seems to have anticipated charges of hypocrisy. In a letter about the allegations released to Minnesota Catholics today, he writes, "I have taken strong stands on the moral teachings of the Church and been criticized for it. I would not have done so if I did not believe those teachings and was personally bound to living up to them in practice."
Nienstedt closes his letter by indicating that he plans to return to ministry after the investigation is complete.