The most powerful Catholic leader in the state of Minnesota warned a mother to change her mind about her gay son or plan on going to hell. Which helps explain why many would like to tell Archbishop John Nienstedt to do the same.
Nienstedt seems confident God will support his judgments of the mother and countless others who've trespassed into his wrath over the years--many, like the mother, in relationship with GLBT people.
Whether Nienstedt has converted anyone in the three decades since his ordination is unclear. What is clear is that the bishop is not praised for being compassionate. Public consensus and Neinstedt's communications convey little evidence he is. What all--including the Bishop--agree on, is that his motives extend well beyond his religion.
Politics needs Religion?
The Bishop is on a political mission. He himself told me as much.
I doubt Nienstedt expected his revelation would get much past our short but respectful conversation last December. Though I shared that my personal and professional values had me very concerned about institutionally propagandized polarization, including by religions. Still, we didn't know each other until then. I'm sure if we had, the Bishop would never have spoken with me with such candor.
This was after a Mass in economically distressed North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Where in his sermon the bishop spoke of St. Peter, the "Rock" and founder of the Catholic church, who ominously "informed us that the world as we know it will be consumed in flames, giving way to a new heaven and a new earth." It ended with Nienstedt's "call to examine our consciences in regard to our daily attitudes and actions."
He posed rhetorical questions for all to consider: "What am I like when no one is looking? How have I helped the poor? "What kind of an example do I give others? "
Hard Questions, No Answers
I chose questions similar to his to orient our discussion, knowing
bishop's actions affect far more people than those in his Church's pews. It's no secret Nienstedt has long preached his polarizing politics to everyone both from his pulpit, and his pen in faith and media pieces and many letters, including to public officials and at least two presidents: one who leads a globally prominent American Catholic University of Notre Dame, the other the leader of the United States.
As we spoke, I wondered aloud how his questions could be translated in the real world. Where so many pontificate seemingly reasonable perspectives, but with such polarizing evangelism that little but social purgatory prevails. The bishop said he didn't know.
Archbishop John Nienstedt
His uncertainty starkly contrasted his Mass demeanor. Gone
were the ceremonial vestments, high-peaked hat and shepherds-