Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota resigned their posts Monday after the archdiocese was charged by prosecutors of not being able to protect children from pedophile acts by priests.
Both officials resigned under the canon law that allows bishops to resign before they retire due to a “grave” reason or an illness that would make them unfit to work, the Associated Press reported. The archdiocese was charged earlier this month for mishandling repeated complaints about sex abuse by clergy but the two bishops were not charged individually.
The resignations come just days after Pope Francis approved a new high-level body at the Vatican that will hold accountable those bishops who were unable to deal with abusers. While advocates for the victims say it's a big step by the Vatican, very few bishops have left their posts, according to the Washington Post.
“In order to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face, I have submitted my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and I have just received word that he has accepted it,” Nienstedt said, in a statement, according to the Post, adding: “My leadership has unfortunately drawn attention away from the good works of His Church and those who perform them.”
The criminal charges against the archdiocese were the result of the manner in which local church officials handled abuses by Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul.
Wehmeyer is currently serving a five-year jail term for molesting two boys and also faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin, the AP reported. The complaint had said that "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by Wehmeyer, were reported by parishioners, fellow priests and parish staff, but no action was taken.
In April, U.S. bishop Robert Finn -- who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri -- resigned after being convicted of not reporting a child abuser.