Priest Can't Serve in Omaha

By Christopher Burbach
The World-Herald
March 17, 2011

A Jesuit Catholic priest, the Rev. Perry Robinson, has been barred from ministry in the Archdiocese of Omaha after allegations of improper conduct in the 1980s resurfaced in a letter to Archbishop George Lucas.

The archbishop removed Robinson in February from his post as senior associate pastor at St. Gerald Catholic Church in Ralston, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese of Omaha. McNeil said that action was in keeping with the archdiocese's “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual abuse.

Robinson, while a teacher at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, had been involved in a public controversy in the early 1990s after he was found to have nude photographs of one or more young men from the late 1980s.

McNeil said Lucas received a letter about Robinson in February from a former Marquette University High School student. The letter sought to make Lucas aware of the Milwaukee allegations and challenged Robinson's fitness to serve as a priest, McNeil said. The letter writer also said Robinson had inappropriately given him a back rub when the boy was a student. McNeil termed that a new allegation.

“(Robinson) was asked to leave St. Gerald's, and he was told that the Jesuits were going to do an investigation because he belonged to them,” McNeil said.

Lucas had not previously known of the Milwaukee incident, McNeil said.

The archdiocese did not immediately make the archbishop's action public. The March 6 St. Gerald Church bulletin said Jesuit superiors at Creighton University had placed Robinson on sabbatical. The bulletin cited Robinson's age — almost 70 — and his health.

But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) on Thursday issued a press release saying Lucas had barred Robinson from ministry. SNAP officials also hand-delivered a letter Thursday to officials of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus, asking them to make more information public about Robinson and any other Jesuits accused of sexual abuse.

Attempts to reach Robinson for comment Thursday were unsuccessful. Rory Gillespie, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Province, declined to answer questions, calling this a personnel matter under investigation.

He issued a prepared statement that said, in part, “The Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus openly receives all reports of abuse. The province accepts any and all reports seriously. The province investigates any and all reports. The province follows its conduct policy in any and all reports.”

In Omaha, McNeil said the archdiocese didn't immediately announce Robinson's removal because the new allegation had not been substantiated. He said that follows the archdiocese's process of moving quickly to protect people without destroying a priest's reputation before an allegation is investigated.

Robinson had been in Omaha for more than 20 years. He had said Masses and performed other duties at St. Gerald since 1989. He was named senior associate pastor at St. Gerald in 2002, McNeil said.

The priest's duties included sacramental and marriage preparation, faith formation and Bible studies, as well as saying Masses.

McNeil said he believed Robinson had no duties at St. Gerald School. No allegations have been made of misconduct by Robinson at St. Gerald, McNeil said.

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