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Newborn Abandoned Inside Cathedral Of St. Paul

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The priest in charge of the Cathedral of St. Paul says he's never witnessed anything like what happened Wednesday night.

Nathan Leonhardt, a maintenance worker who was locking up for the night, found an abandoned newborn boy in a laundry basket. The child was wrapped in a fleece blanket and was not wearing a diaper. He seemed just hours old, and his umbilical cord was still attached.

"I didn't know what to do at the time," Leonhardt said. "I was in shock. I grabbed the blanket, wrapped the baby back up, came in the door."

Leonhardt said he called Father John Ubel, the cathedral's rector, who called 911.

"In more than 27 years as a priest, I've never witnessed anything like this," Ubel said. "It was very clear that the baby was very young, a matter of hours, had not been fully washed and it was difficult to ascertain what the condition of the baby was."

The rector made the decision to immediately baptize the child as they waited for police to arrive.

"I just felt that it was the most important thing to do. And I told Nathan I'm baptizing the baby 'Nathan,' and I thought that was appropriate as well," Ubel said. "Very emotional, but also a beautiful moment. When you think about Christmas and kneeling before the manger."

Emily Piper, the state's commissioner of human services, says Minnesota's Safe Place for Newborns law allows newborns to be left at a safe place by their mothers, without fear of prosecution.

"No questions asked, no blame, no shame," Piper said. "Within seven days of a baby's birth, the mom can leave anonymously a newborn baby at an emergency room, hospital or call 911."

She added that even though the newborn was left at a place of worship in this case, it appears the intent was to leave the child at a safe place.

St. Paul police say they do not plan to treat this case as a criminal matter. They are not actively searching for the mother.

They are concerned about the mother's health, and want to make sure she gets medical attention without fearing arrest.


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