No Child Abuse Alleged
The Archbishop Says that the Rev. Robert Allgaier Will not Have an Assignment Until His "Obsession With Pornography" is Overcome
By Shannon Henson
Omaha World Herald
March 5, 2002
A Ralston priest charged in a misdemeanor child pornography case will not be given another assignment until the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha is confident that he has "overcome his obsession with pornography," the Omaha archbishop said in a statement Monday.
Archbishop Elden Curtiss said the Rev. Robert Allgaier is not accused of abusing anyone and is not a pedophile.
But Allgaier will be placed in an in-depth treatment program, Curtiss said, "in order to guarantee that there would be no recurrence of the problem in the future."
"Even though there is no evidence that Father Allgaier was ever improper with children or teen-agers, the archdiocese wants to make sure that there is no possibility that it could happen in the future," Curtiss said.
Allgaier was charged last week with attempted possession of child pornography, a misdemeanor.
He has been under investigation by Norfolk police since October, when authorities received a complaint that he had viewed child pornography on a computer in the office of Sacred Heart-St. Mary Catholic Church in Norfolk.
Allgaier was an assistant pastor at the parish from June 1998 to June 2001, when he was transferred by the archdiocese to St. Gerald Catholic Church in Ralston as an assistant pastor.
Curtiss removed Allgaier from the parish in late February. Allgaier has left Nebraska. Curtiss did not say where he is being treated.
In his statement, Curtiss said the archdiocese has a "zero tolerance level" for sexual abuse of children and will cooperate with police in any investigation involving sexual misconduct against children.
Curtiss said that when the archdiocese discovered last year that Allgaier was viewing child pornography, he sent Allgaier to an Omaha psychologist for an evaluation.
According to a search warrant filed last week in Madison County, Allgaier told Curtiss in February 2001 that he viewed child pornography as many as four times a week, for several hours each time. In January 2001, two young men had told a priest at another church that they were in Allgaier's office when they started to look up an Internet site on his computer and clicked on the "history" button. It showed sites with names containing the words "gay," "naughty" and "kids."
Subsequent to the evaluation, Curtiss said, Allgaier entered a series of sessions with a therapist whose expertise is pornography and the Internet.
It was decided that Allgaier posed no threat to children. "This is the reason he was considered able to be reassigned to St. Gerald Parish in Ralston."
The opinions recently were verified by a team of professionals who conducted another evaluation, Curtiss said in the statement.
When the police investigation began, Curtiss said, the extent of Allgaier's involvement with child pornography became an issue.
To guarantee that there would be no recurrence, he said, "it was decided that he should become involved in an in-depth therapy program."
Curtiss said Allgaier will be in a professional program to "help him discover the reasons for his involvement with child pornography on the Internet."
The church wants to make sure Allgaier has "faced and overcome the causes of this unhealthy behavior."
"Unless we are convinced that he has totally overcome his obsession with pornography, he will not be given another assignment in the archdiocese," Curtiss said.
Curtiss said in the letter that he regretted the alarm the matter had caused for Catholic parents in Norfolk, Ralston and Omaha, where he taught religion at St. Joan of Arc-St. Gerald Middle School.
"My advisers and I, along with Father Allgaier's counselors, are convinced that your children were not at risk at any time."
Allgaier's first court appearance Monday was postponed until 9 a.m. March 12 at the request of his attorney, James E. Schaefer of Omaha.
Archbishop Curtiss' statement
Here is the complete text of Archbishop Elden Curtiss' statement Monday regarding the Rev. Robert Allgaier, the Ralston priest charged in Norfolk, Neb., with attempted possession of child pornography:
I refrained from making any statement about the accusations against Father Robert Allgaier until the investigation was completed and a charge was filed. Although Father Allgaier's arraignment in Madison County has been postponed until March 12, I now make the following statement:
The Archdiocese is on record for having a zero tolerance level for sexual abuse of children. The Archdiocese has and will cooperate with civil authorities in reporting accusations of sexual misconduct or abuse against children, and we will cooperate in any investigation. Any priest, deacon, religious, teacher, counselor or lay employee of any parish or institution in the Archdiocese who abuses a child will be removed from his or her position in the Archdiocese.
In the case involving Father Allgaier, there was no accusation that he abused anyone. When it was discovered last year that he was viewing child pornography on the internet, he was sent for psychological evaluation by a prominent psychologist in Omaha. Subsequently, he entered into a series of counseling sessions with a therapist whose expertise is pornography and the internet. At the outset, Father Allgaier ceased all contact with pornography. During this period, he discontinued his classroom teaching duties at Norfolk Catholic High School. The information that resulted from the evaluation and the counseling sessions indicated that Father Allgaier was no threat to children or anyone else. This is the reason he was considered able to be reassigned to St. Gerald Parish in Ralston.
The professional opinions of the psychologists have been recently verified by a team of professionals who have conducted yet another evaluation. Father Allgaier is not a pedophile. He is not an ephebophile. He has not been in the past nor is he presently a threat to children or teenagers. Anyone implying otherwise is misinformed.
When the police investigation began some months ago, the extent of Father Allgaier's involvement in child pornography became an issue. In order to guarantee that there would be no recurrence of the problem in the future, after Father Allgaier was informed of the police investigation, it was decided that he should become involved in an in-depth therapy program. Even though there is no evidence that Father Allgaier was ever improper with children or teenagers, the Archdiocese wants to make sure that there is no possibility that it could happen in the future.
Father Allgaier has been charged with a Class III misdemeanor for attempted possession of child pornography. The evidence and circumstances did not merit a more serious charge. However, the degree of his serious involvement in child pornography makes this a serious matter for him and the Archdiocese. Father Allgaier will be in a professional program to help him discover the reasons for his involvement with child pornography on the internet. Even though he ceased the activity last year when it was discovered, we want to make sure that he has faced and overcome the causes of this unhealthy behavior. Unless we are convinced that he has totally overcome his obsession with pornography, he will not be given another assignment in the Archdiocese.
I regret the alarm this event has caused for Catholic parents in Norfolk and at St. Gerald Parish in Ralston and St. Joan of Arc school in Omaha. My advisors and I along with Father Allgaier's counselors are convinced that your children were not at risk at any time. I want you to know that your concerns are understood and accepted. I only wish that I could have responded to them before the investigation was completed. This sad episode is a wake-up call to all of us about the seductive nature of pornography on the internet.
I ask the prayers of people everywhere for Father Allgaier as he struggles with the pain he has caused, and the shame. I ask prayers for his family who know only his goodness, and his friends who are suffering with him. I ask prayers for the people who have been upset and confused by this episode. And we need to pray for ourselves, that we gain the maturity and discipline we need to be true to our ideals, and that we can maintain our balance and decency in the midst of so much easily accessible pornography in our society.
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