I want to take a moment to be very serious for a second and address something that, I suspect, crosses the mind of a lot of liturgical ministers and volunteers within the Church.
A few days ago, Archbishop John Nienstedt was accused of inappropriately touching a minor several years ago. Though, of course, [puts on reporter’s hat] we need to let the charges play out, the charges on their face seem really, really weak. [removes reporter’s hat]
But the damage has already been done. Even if Nienstedt is exonerated, there will be a subset of people who will never let him forget he was charged and insist that he, of course, did it. His bishop ministry, which was already on shaky ground because of the Minneapolis-St. Paul’s long history of bad dealings with the sex abuse crisis, is pretty much done for.
Why does this concern me? Well, I’m not a priest, so I’m not subject to the same rules as priests, in at least one sense. But I’m a single man in his 20s who at times works with children, which automatically makes me suspicious to some. I also understand that there’s nothing stopping someone from making a similar allegation against me.
It would be totally unfounded, completely false. I’ve never abused anyone, and I never will. I ensure parents are always at any kids’ choir I run, and I do my best to ensure that I’m never alone with kids, lest someone else misinterpret decide to cause trouble. But none of that may matter. Even if I’m cleared, I still will have that allegation attached to my name, and there’s little I can do about it. My church ministry could be effectively done for, through no fault of my own.
It’s a frightening prospect. It doesn’t stop me from my music ministry, especially because I take as many precautions as I can. But it sticks in the back of my mind from time to time, and I am forced to pray and trust in others to ensure the specter of a false accusation never happens to me.