Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt struggled to explain his views on homosexuality to a local gay reporter in raw footage from an interview conducted late last month, Minneapolis City Pages reported.
“Tell me, archbishop, why should I lead the life of a priest?” KMSP-TV reporter Tom Lyden asked Nienstedt in response to the archbishop’s statement that gay people needed to live “chaste” lives.
“Because it is of your nature to, um, express yourself sexually through a committed relationship,” Nienstedt replied.
“I am. I’ve been with the same partner and husband now for 21 years,” Lyden said.
KMSP posted the footage on Aug. 1, a day after airing Lyden’s report about Niendstedt’s efforts to reassure the Minneapolis-St. Paul community that his diocese would put “victims first” in regards to sexual assault allegations against local clergy, including a new policy mandating that the diocese notify police rather than conduct their own investigations.
“Why would we believe you today when you say, ‘victims first,’ when we’ve been hearing that for about 30 years?” Lyden asked.
“Well, because we’re saying it again, and we’re saying it with gusto,” Niendstedt replied. “And we’re saying it with meaning.”
Niendstedt himself is under outside investigation for allegedly sexually harassing male priests and seminarians in his diocese. A portion of the interview that was aired on KMSP addressed that probe.
“The claims that have been made against me are of inappropriate, but not immoral or criminal activity,” Niendstedt told Lyden.
“Are you gay or are you homosexual?” Lyden asked.
“No, I am not,” Niendstedt said. “But at the same time, I want to say that I’m not against gays. I look at all individuals as children of God, and they deserve the respect and the dignity of their personhood.”
The raw footage of the interview shows Lyden pushing back against that remark.
“That’s not what you said about Brokeback Mountain, though, the movie,” Lyden said. “You came out pretty strongly about that being an immoral movie.”
“I was critical of the movie, yes,” Niendstedt replied. “I don’t know if I used the word ‘immoral.'”
In his 2006 column deriding the film, Niendstedt said that the relationship between the two male protagonists begins with “an act of wanton anal sex,” and calls it “a story of lust gone bad” instead of “a sad symphony to a beautiful love that our homophobic society will not allow to show itself.”
“I wonder if the trend makers in Hollywood really think they know where this is leading us as we slide further and further down the slope of immorality,” Niendstedt wrote. “Surely they must be aware that they have turned their backs on God and the standards of God in their quest to make evil look so attractive. There is an agenda here, of that you can be sure. It is an agenda directly opposed to God’s and to the salvation offered in Jesus Christ.”
When Lyden pointed out in last week’s interview that Niendstedt was contradicting his own criticism, the archbishop argued that the church draws a line between someone feeling a same-sex “attraction” and acting on it.
“So when you say you have nothing against homosexuals, you have nothing against homosexuals as long as they’re not having sex,” Lyden said.
“We believe, correctly, that sexual relations take place within the context of a committed marriage relationship,” Niendstedt replied.”
“And yet the church is opposed to marriage and you fought gay marriage,” Lyden countered.
“I didn’t fight gay marriage,” Niendstedt said. “I fought for marriage as a traditional understanding of a union between a man and a woman.”
What Niendstedt did not mention is that he blamed the Devil for the growing acceptance of marriage equality in an August 2013 speech at a Catholic leadership conference.
Watch the interview in full, as posted online on Aug. 1, below.