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Parishioners stand behind controversial Archbishop

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Parishioners at a local Catholic church are standing behind the man who is at least temporarily leading their church.

At one point that man was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct and covering up abuse.

On Sunday, church goers had a strong message for those they say are too quick to judge, saying they should wait until they have all the facts.

The Kalamazoo diocese recently brought in Archbishop John Nienstedt, a retired Archbishop at the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, St. Paul to serve as the assistant priest at St. Philip Roman Catholic Church in Battle Creek while Father John Fleckenstein receives medical care.

"I think he's a wonderful person," said parishioner Charles Rose. "I had a chance to shake hands with him and talk with him and welcomed him to Battle Creek and to the church."

The decision to bring in Archbishop Nienstedt has brought along some controversy.

"Sex crimes are horrible," said Rose, "but equally horrible is to misjudge an innocent person. That's equally as bad, so we shouldn't do that."

The Archbishop resigned from his position in 2015 after the Twin Cities Archdiocese was indicted on charges that it covered up sexual abuse. Nienstedt was also accused of sexual misconduct and covering up child sex crimes, but he himself was never criminally charged.

Miky Kingsley attended mass at St. Philip today and tells Newschannel 3 that she thinks the facts have been skewed.

"He said none of the allegations have been proven and none of them are true," said Kingley. "He denies any kind of wrongdoing and I feel that he is telling the truth."

Kingsley and others say the church has been upfront about the allegations and that people should learn more about the Archbishop before making a decision.

This week, the Diocese of Kalamazoo sent a statement, saying in part; "The Diocese of Kalamazoo is committed to providing a safe environment for all people. Archbishop Emeritus Nienstedt begins his temporary ministry at St. Philip Parish as a priest in good standing."

In the weekly church bulletin, Father John Fleckenstein told parishioners that he will be returning to the Mayo Clinic to undergo tests. He says he had a few seizures several weeks ago, so he will be hospitalized and monitored.