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Archbishop temporarily steps aside after boy's allegations

ST. PAUL -- The St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic archbishop today removed himself temporarily from public ministry after he was accused of inappropriately touching a boy in 2009.

The archdiocese said it learned of the allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt last weekend. Nienstedt said he asked that the St. Paul police be informed.

He is accused of putting his hand on the boy's buttocks.

"I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me," Nienstedt said in a statement. "I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false."

The allegations come from a young man "whom I anointed in the sacrament of confirmation," the archbishop said.

He added that he always has one hand on a staff, known as a crozier, and other on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed person or on a short stole he wears. "I do that deliberately and there are hundreds of photographs to verify that fact."

Nienstedt said he hopes the police investigation "can be thorough but quick."

The archbishop decided to leave public ministry during the investigation after consulting with the Vatican's ambassador to the United States.

On Sunday, Nienstedt spoke at a church and apologized for a sex abuse scandal that is growing in the archdiocese.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.