Priest Who Asked Students about Porn Reassigned, Will Lead Mass on Sunday
By Michael Kelly
November 24, 2017
The young Catholic priest who was moved out of a parish for his questions of seventh- and eighth-graders during confession has been reassigned under the guidance of a veteran pastor.
The Rev. Nicholas Mishek will lead the 9 a.m. Mass Sunday at St. Frances Cabrini Church south of downtown. Out of the public eye, he has lived at the rectory there for at least a month, said the Rev. Damian Zuerlein, pastor.
“He is young and inexperienced,” Zuerlein said, “and is trying to learn from this and move forward.”
According to letters to be read at weekend Masses at St. Frances Cabrini and at St. Robert Bellarmine, Mishek’s former parish, the Omaha Archdiocese after outside psychological evaluations found him suitable to return to the ministry.
Mishek, ordained a priest in June at the age of 26, in September asked St. Robert Elementary School students in the confessional if they had looked at pornography or masturbated.
Parents reported it to school officials, and the Rev. Steven Stillmunks, the parish pastor, immediately instructed Mishek to pack his things and leave.
About 200 adults later attended a parish meeting with parish and archdiocesan leaders. The Rev. Scott Hastings, vicar for the clergy, said the questions of middle-school-aged children were a “serious boundary violation.”
Another official said the newly ordained priest had been overzealous and had a lapse of judgment. Pornography is a growing problem that priests often hear about in confession, officials say, and the archdiocese sponsors programs for porn-addicted adults.
The Rev. Frank Baumert, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, defended Mishek after his removal, saying that children are being pulled into pornography and that, “Father Nick is not some dysfunctional person who should not be a priest.”
Hastings said Mishek isn’t specifically prohibited from seeing schoolchildren, but his immediate job, besides leading Mass, will be working with people in hospitals and retirement centers.
He has been cooperative and professional, the vicar said, and is being “eased back in” to priestly ministry.
Stillmunks, who evicted him from St. Robert, near 118th and Pacific Streets, said he spoke with Mishek this week and wished him well.
Zuerlein said he hopes St. Frances Cabrini parishioners will welcome him.
“We all make mistakes,” Zuerlein said. “He had a big failure, and he needs a chance to see if he can continue.”