Curtiss Regrets Allgaier Decision, The Archbishop Says:
He Would Not have let The Priest Keep Working had he Known Such a Public Controversy Would Arise
By Stephen Buttry
Omaha World Herald
March 28, 2002
Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss said Wednesday that he regrets keeping a priest in parish ministry after learning of allegations that he viewed child pornography.
On "The Shepherd's Corner" radio program on Catholic station KVSS Wednesday morning, Curtiss said that he ordered a psychiatric evaluation and counseling for the Rev. Robert Allgaier after learning in January 2001 of allegations that the priest's computer indicated that he had viewed child pornography on the Internet.
The evaluation concluded that Allgaier had not abused children and "does not have a sexual attraction to children," Curtiss said. Satisfied that the priest was "no threat to anybody," the archbishop let him continue his ministry.
Curtiss said he transferred Allgaier from Sacred Heart-St. Mary Parish in Norfolk to St. Gerald in Ralston in June "to keep an eye on him." The priest's duties in Ralston included teaching religion in school and working with the youth group.
But he would not have allowed Allgaier to work in a parish "had I known that this was going to become public and that I was going to have to interrupt his ministry and then have this reaction from people," Curtiss said.
The Allgaier case, Curtiss said, "is a disaster for people both in Norfolk and St. Gerald. It's a disaster for the archdiocese, and it shouldn't have been. It wasn't a felony. There wasn't anybody abused, and we were trying to deal with it."
The archbishop noted that Allgaier was not accused of abusing children. "Anyone guilty of child abuse will not be given a second chance to be a priest," Curtiss said. "Any time there is an accusation that is verified of child abuse in this archdiocese by anyone, they're out of the ministry."
He cited a Scripture passage in which Jesus says that if a person harms a child's faith, it would be better for that person to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea.
The archbishop stirred a controversy with letters rebuking two Catholics who wrote letters to The World-Herald criticizing him. Curtiss announced Monday that he had written letters to the two apologizing for his critical letters.
On the radio show, Curtiss said he would prefer for Catholics to raise concerns directly with him, but he added, "Maybe it's all right for people to vent their concerns in a public way."
Citing Easter as a season of forgiveness, he said, "I have to set the tone and give the example of reconciliation."
Local and national scandals about sexual misconduct by priests will lead to a purification of the church, Curtiss said. "We're going to recover from this and be stronger than we ever were."
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