"Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, has a long track record of indelicacy."
I rarely read NCR and I don't know who Michael Sean Winters is, but he is going after Archbishop Nienstedt to try and persuade bishops not to vote for him to head the Committee on Doctrine at next weeks USCCB Plenary meeting. Why? Because the archbishop is a straight talker, he teaches clearly and simply, and doesn't down play Church teaching - which garners for him the reputation of being 'indelicate' - at least in Mr. Winters opinion.
Next week, at the annual USCCB Plenary meeting, the bishops will select several new committee chairs. One of those committees, the Committee on Doctrine, is an especially delicate assignment. Even a man with as clear and careful a mind as Cardinal Donald Wuerl has found himself in the midst of controversy.as chair of the Doctrine Committee. Sometimes controversy is unavoidable, to be sure, but it serves the best interests of the Church when such controversies are handled by bishops, like Wuerl, who are known for their thoughtfulness.Indelicate? Really?
In the event, one of the two nominees, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, Minnesota, has a long track record of indelicacy. Nienstedt first landed on my radar screen when, in 2006, while serving as the Bishop of New Ulm, he wrote a column in his diocesan newspaper urging his flock not to attend the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” Nienstedt wrote of the movie, “The story is about two lonely cowboys herding sheep up on a mountain range. One night after a drinking binge, one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex.” I must say that I never in all my years expected to read the phrase “wanton anal sex” in my diocesan newspaper. In my experience, diocesan newspapers tend to be read by an older, largely female, demographic. Did they really need to read that phrase?
Anal sex. It's a filthy practice - repulsive and disgusting. Gay people hate it when you name it - or call it sodomy, or refer to those who do it, 'fudge packers'. It's gross. No way can it be condoned or praised, much less compared to the conjugal act. When you point out just exactly what it is that gay people do that is so morally offensive - they get uncomfortable and assail the speaker as being indelicate and hateful. What is more indelicate than anal sex? That complaint is similar to those who never want to see photos which show what an abortion actually looks like.
I don't have time today to comment further on the editorial by Winters, however, there is an interesting tidbit about Raymond Lucker, former bishop of New Ulm - now deceased. He was something of a fox - I can say that because I knew the bishop. Anyway, Winters goes on to criticize Nienstedt for the way the Archbishop warned the faithful away from Lucker's writings after Nienstedt became bishop of New Ulm, succeeding Lucker:
The (Brokeback Mountain) episode was not Nienstedt’s first indelicate act as bishop of New Ulm. He denounced the writings of his predecessor who had recently died. Bishop Raymond Lucker had begun working on a book when illness overtook him and he entrusted the completion of the work to a friend. Lucker, who had served as the bishop of New Ulm for twenty-five years, died in 2001, the same year Nienstedt became bishop of New Ulm. When the book was published in 2003, Nienstedt urged Catholics not to read it, said it did not adequately reflect Church Teaching. Nienstedt wrote that the book “challenges the church’s own understanding of herself as being authoritatively charged under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach in the name of Jesus on matters of faith and morals.” Nienstedt referred the text to the USCCB Doctrine Committee. The Committee engaged a theologian to review the book, who concluded that while there were some passages that were “ambiguous” and “lacking nuance,” the book did not contain “grave errors.”While Bishop of New Ulm, Nienstedt did a great service for the Church and the faithful by getting rid of the wolves and gathering the sheep - perhaps an indelicate job - but someone had to do it.
I did not read the book and have no intention of doing so. But, it seems odd to me to try to defend the teaching authority of the bishops by throwing one of them under the bus. And, it is simply bad form. When bishops take the helm of a new diocese and they re-arrange all the pastors, or fire the entire chancery staff, or condemn their predecessor as theologically suspect, these acts cause consternation among the faithful. They get whiplash. “It was a really unnecessary and deep insult to a man who had recently died, a man who had given his life to the church,” my colleague Tom Roberts commented at the time. - Just Say 'Nien' To Nienstedt
God bless Archbishop Nienstedt and pray for him - he's a strong and faithful Archbishop - a true Catholic, a man without guile. I am grateful we have such a man as Archbishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis.
H/T Ray at Stella for the NCR piece.