Nienstedt's Fall & Shenanigans with Viganò & Busch

October 24, 2018

"In response to media inquiries concerning Archbishop John Neinstedt, the Archdiocese of Detroit released the following statement:

"This summer, Archbishop Nienstedt announced his intention to move back to southeast Michigan to live in a house he owns. At that time, Archbishop Vigneron asked Archbishop Nienstedt – and he agreed – to abstain from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit. That agreement remains in effect."


View the lawsuit and the supporting documents from Jeff Anderson & Associates. View the press conference (go to 29 min., 12 sec. for Nienstedt).

(Nienstedt is aptly right in front, left from behind--see below)
Costume party: The model of the church that Avery Dulles neglected
Edmund Casimir Szoka (right), Karol Józef Wojtyła, (center), and John Clayton Nienstedt, Jr.
Nienstedt should be removed from the clerical state, and Viganò deserves to be stripped of his diplomatic archbishop's title and sanctioned to conduct a life of prayer and penance with Theodore McCarrick, of whom he is so concerned.

John Nienstedt was initially a 
center-left Detroit 
priest (e.g., open to women's ordination in 1974) whom the liberal John Dearden mentored and employed. With Dearden's impending retirement in 1980, Nienstedt was sent to Rome to complete a doctorate in moral theology and to work in the Holy See's Secretariat of State, whereby he learned first-hand what it took to become a bishop under John Paul II's reign. With mentoring by Vatican insiders such as Carlo Viganò and Justin Rigali, as well as friendships with those possessing right-wing ideologies and dispositions like Thomas Olmsted, Nienstedt adopted hardcore, un-pastoral conservatism, at least in rhetoric and appearance, to ladder-climb. Upon returning to Detroit in 1985, Nienstedt served Polish-American Edmund Szoka, the ruthless anti-Dearden, who was one of John Paul II's favorite bishops. When Szoka gained further power through positions in the Vatican, he rewarded Nienstedt (and others) who dutifully served him with the office of bishop, even after Adam Maida removed Nienstedt as Rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1994 for misconduct. (NB: *Maida received letters detailing Nienstedt's misconduct over the years, including a letter from the majority of college seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1994. These letters should be held in the archives of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Like those alleging McCarrick's behavior was an open secret and church officials did not act thoroughly, either did Maida with Nienstedt. **James Heathcott, a former Sacred Heart seminarian, testified to sending a letter to Edmund Szoka regarding Nienstedt's improprieties (pre-1990). Szoka never replied! This and other letters may well be in the archives.)

John Nienstedt: The Priest to Be
With the amount of evidence possessed by clerics and lay persons in the Archdiocese of Detroit about Nienstedt's gay promiscuity, sexual harassment, and reprisals, Nienstedt possibly thought an offensive against persons who are LGBTQ would squelch it or somehow prove to the hierarchy that he is not gay. This assault became a hallmark of Nienstedt's drunken-fueled episcopal tyranny in New Ulm and Saint Paul-Minneapolis. Given the obsessiveness and severity of Nienstedt's crusade, persons have rightly charged him with hypocrisy given his sexual misconduct in Metro Detroit, Rome, and Minnesota.

(NB: Thus far, nine persons out of eleven are known to have filed affidavits in the Nienstedt misconduct investigation: (1) Joel Cycenas, a former Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis priest and friend of Nienstedt, (2) Lawrence Ventline, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, (3) Eugene Tiffany, a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, (4) Gary Michalik, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, (5) James Heathcott, a former seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, (6) William Siebert, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, (7) Paul Blaschko, a former seminarian at Saint John Vianney Seminary, (8) Michael Becker, a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and (9) X, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. See Minnesota Public Radio's story and Star Tribune's story.)

Nienstedt gambled on a continuation of bishops of Rome such as John Paul II and Benedict XVI. With Francis, Nienstedt is panicky: What was taken for granted has been turned upside down for him. Given Nienstedt's public hardline focus and demeanor, he cannot plausibly return to his original center-left position that he held as a young priest. His betrayal of Dearden cannot be undone; it is final. There is no more ladder-climbing left for Nienstedt since Francis is uninterested in shallow, closeted, malicious, careerist clerics. Nienstedt can only cling onto what he has contrived: a house of cards.

Nevertheless, Carlo Viganò, whom Benedict appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to the US in 2011, tried his best through lying, intimidation, and ordering the destruction of evidence (i.e., obstruction of justice) to preserve his friend's house of cards from collapsing in 2014 (NB: they overlapped together in the Holy See's Secretariat of State between 1980-1985). He told John Carr, who advocated for Nienstedt's removal, that "we cannot give in to the enemies of the church, the media, the attorneys and others who oppose the church." Though Viganò's deceit delayed the inevitable, Francis forced Nienstedt's resignation as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis on June 15, 2015. Likewise, Francis happily received Viganò's resignation on April 12, 2016.

After a half-year hiatus, Nienstedt was taken in by a friend who served as pastor of St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek, MI. John Fleckenstein (NB, former seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit; ordained 2002), who was to undergo medical treatment, employed Nienstedt temporarily at the parish beginning on January 6, 2016. Michigan residents protested for two-weeks until Nienstedt's resignation was announced on January 21, 2016.

Later in 2016, Timothy Busch, a friend of Viganò and Nienstedt, took Nienstedt in at the Napa Institute, which caters to the agenda of likeminded wealthy, laissez-faire capitalist, ultraconservative US Catholics. Busch is a native of Clinton in rural Lenawee County, MI. He attended Western Michigan and later Wayne State for his law degree. His brothers and he still own Busch's Fresh Food Markets in Southeastern Michigan, though Busch relocated to Southern California in 1982. Busch also owns the Busch Firm, which specializes in estate planning for the wealthy, and the Pacific Hospitality Group. Together, Charles Koch and Timothy Busch donated $25 million to Catholic University of America's Business School, WHICH CUA ACCEPTED (NB, now called The Busch School of Business; Busch is interested in propagating the compatibility of Catholicism with laissez-faire capitalism). Besides the Napa Institute and the Catholic University of America, Busch is involved with "the Papal Foundation, Legatus, Magis Institute and the University of Notre Dame."

Viganò and Busch
Neinstedt and Busch
On August 2, 2018, Busch said that he was "disheartened" by former prelate Theodore McCarrick's sexual misconduct, so, as Chair of the Napa Institute, he invited persons to pray for "the Church hierarchy to find the courage to root out every sin and restore truth, beauty, and goodness to the Church." What may have suddenly precipitated Busch’s statement on Theodore McCarrick, whom he worked with for many years (not to mention Bush's patronage of Nienstedt, knowing full-well his sexual misconduct)? 

In 1988, Theodore McCarrick co-founded the Papal Foundation, which raises funds from wealthy US Catholics for projects deemed worthy by the bishop of Rome. The foundation’s board has allocated grants to causes worldwide, especially in developing countries. In 2017, Pope Francis requested a $25 million grant to keep L'Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata-Roma afloat amid the Vatican-supported hospital’s continuing financial struggles. According to the Papal Foundation, "[t]his request came in the larger context of the Holy Father's commitment to confront and eliminate corruption and financial mismanagement both within the Vatican itself and in outside projects with which it was involved or sponsored." Donald Wuerl and Theodore McCarrick championed the cause for Francis; however, the lay members of the board were hesitant because of the hospital’s ongoing struggle and lack of financial transparency or strategy. Though there were protests and resignations by some lay members, half of the $25 million was eventually sent but no more. Afterwards, the Papal Foundation declared it was taking time for reflection and “a re-evaluation of its mission, its approach to grant giving and its relationship with the Holy See.” In turn, the Vatican said that it was postponing a planned April 2018 papal audience with foundation members until they agreed upon the foundation's mission, grant-giving approach, and relationship to the Holy See. 

Apparently, some of the lay donors of the Papal Foundationincluding board member Timothy Busch, felt dismissed by Francis who, from their understanding of what US philanthropy buys, ignored the niceties of "pay to play." Also feeling spurned by Francis, of course, were Busch’s friends, Carlo Viganò and John Nienstedt. Viganò did not enjoy being evicted from his Vatican apartment and being passed over as a cardinal. And John Nienstedt’s dream of further climbing-up the hierarchal ladder came to a sudden end by Francis, as well. Media coverage of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct and Donald Wuerl’s lack of oversight throughout his episcopal service created the perfect opportunity to get back at Francis. Viganò consulted with Busch about a letter Viganò could publish wherein he would allege that Francis knew all about Theodore McCarrick’s misconduct yet kept him as an insider. Viganò shared the letter with Timothy Busch two weeks prior to its release. Given what Viganò was alleging and Busch's aid in doing so, Busch had to coordinate Nienstedt's departure from the Napa Institute prior to the letter's release. Hence, on August 15, 2018, Busch and the Napa Institute suddenly ended Nienstedts' patronage (at least publicly).

On August 25, 2018, Viganò released his eleven-page letter (dated August 22, 2018) via ultra-rightwing "Catholic" media that attacked Francis through the pretense described above (obviously, if they really cared about the issue, Viganò and Busch would not have helped Nienstedt--this is a proxy battle). In the letter, he even had the brazenness to call for Francis' resignation. In the US, Viganò's letter was published by the National Catholic Register, the parent company (EWTN) of which Busch serves as a governor. (The Napa Institute and EWTN also have strong connections with Opus Dei.) Besides Busch and possibly Nienstedt, Viganò began consulting conservative, anti-Francis Italian journalists Aldo Maria Valli and Marco Tosatti in March 2018, right after the Papal Foundation upheaval broke in February. Tosatti, too, urged Viganò to take advantage of the clerical abuse crisis in the US to make Francis appear sinister: "I think that if you want to say something, now is the moment because everything is going upside-down in the United States. [Viganò] said 'OK.'" Moreover, Alli advised distributing "the letter during Francis' trip to Ireland, when the pope would be surrounded by reporters." They planned a media ambush, and right-wing, anti-Francis "news outlets" did not disappoint.

Viganò, Nienstedt, and Busch's actions are not coincidences, especially if one knows these men. They have orchestrated an opportunistic putsch against Francis, the bishop of Rome. Among their supporters are Thomas Olmsted, the bishop of Phoenix, and Thomas Tobin, the bishop of Providence, who graduated with Nienstedt from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1972.  Olmsted also served with Viganò and Nienstedt in the Holy See's Secretariat of State in the early 1980s. Another is Robert Morlino, the ex-Jesuit bishop of Madison, who is a close friend of Nienstedt. In 1990, Nienstedt even employed Morlino as a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Fittingly, Morlino is also a member of Busch's Napa Institute's Ecclesial Advisory Board. Other champions, such as the flamboyant and malevolent Raymond Burke, who overlapped with Nienstedt in Rome for graduate studies between 1980-1984, are vocal members of the established "I Hate Francis Club."

(Between June 29 and July 1, 2007, Robert Morlino traveled to St. Paul, MN to partake in all of the welcoming events for John Nienstedt, who had been named Coadjutor Archbishop. In 2008, Morlino even traveled to Rome "to celebrate the reception of the Pallium of my very good friend and neighbor, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The beautiful liturgy of the Pallium took place on June 29." [So Morlino wants to call attention to a so-called "homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church?" No better than he since he hangs with its President, John Clayton.])

It appears that Viganò and Nienstedt are in hiding. But hiding has been part and parcel of their lives for a long time--they are professional concealers and obscurers. It is time for them to come out of their clerical closets and to face Francis like men who claim to be Christian.

Francis swiftly stripped Theodore McCarrick of his cardinal's title and ordered him to conduct a life of prayer and penance before a church trial begins. Has Nienstedt behaved better than McCarrick? Arguably, Nienstedt's behavior was and continues to be far worse--perhaps unimaginable but true. Viganò's obstruction of justice was illegal in the US; moreover, he lied and intimidated others on behalf of Nienstedt. And his plot against Francis has caused discord, division, and scandal, which are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Nienstedt should be removed from the clerical state, and Viganò deserves to be stripped of his diplomatic archbishop's title and sanctioned to conduct a life of prayer and penance with Theodore McCarrick, of whom he is so concerned. Adam Maida and others who did not act upon the knowledge they had regarding John Nienstedt's behavior need to answer for what their omission allowed to transpire.

** NB: Even after Nienstedt was forced to resign as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, he continued to serve (began in Winter 2011) as Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) in Rome--as late as May 2016. That year, Nienstedt's friend, Carlo Viganò, received the PNAC's Rector's Award at the annual Rector's Dinner (the month after his resignation as nuncio). The honorees of the dinner were Tim and Steph Busch, who had contributed generously to the seminary (connection to Nienstedt, who served as Vice-Chair). In 2014, Nienstedt pulled Jeffrey Monforton onto the PNAC Board. (Presumably they traveled together to Rome for board meetings. Thus far, there is no word on how Nienstedt's Swiss Guardsman felt about the arrangement.)

Also see a 2018 investigation by the conservative investigative reporter Randy Engel, "The Strange Case of Archbishop Nienstedt:"
Also see:
José Gómez, John Clayton Nienstedt, Jr., Samuel Aquila, and Robert Morlino at the Napa Institute
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 9, 2018, 11:14 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 9, 2018, 11:14 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 3, 2018, 9:53 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 9, 2018, 11:14 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 17, 2018, 1:36 PM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 9, 2018, 11:15 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Oct 26, 2018, 10:24 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Oct 2, 2018, 6:38 AM
Isadore Roberts,
Sep 9, 2018, 11:13 AM