Letter to Pius X Families Prompted by Church Abuse Allegations Causes Stir — and Clarification

By Margaret Reist
Lincoln Journal Star
August 24, 2018

An email sent to Pius X High School parents outlining school safety procedures in light of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse within the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln caused a small controversy of its own.

An email sent to Pius X parents Aug. 17 appeared to suggest that parents should report abuse claims to police or the child abuse hotline if they happen outside the school, but to church officials if it involves diocesan officials.

But Principal Tom Korta said that's the opposite of what he meant to communicate, and after several parents questioned that portion of the email, he sent a clarification to families Tuesday.

He intended to urge parents to report all suspected abuse, regardless of where it occurred, he said.

“I gave some people the impression that I don’t want people to report diocesan personnel to the police,” he said in his second email. “I am very sorry for that impression. The opposite is true: I want every perpetrator of abuse to be stopped and I want every victim of abuse to be supported and helped to heal. I am sincerely sorry for the angst I caused some people," he wrote.

Korta said he sent the original email to remind parents of the school’s procedures, which are intended to keep students safe.

It listed precautions the school takes including staff background checks and training for staff and volunteers. He included links to policies for staff regarding social media and internet safety and reporting suspected child abuse.

“We suspected some parents were concerned about what we’re doing to keep our kids safe,” he said. “Our intent was to clarify what procedures we have in place ourselves.”

Three priests within the Diocese of Lincoln have resigned or been removed from their parish assignments in recent weeks, following allegations of abuse of a now-deceased priest that span two decades and surfaced in online articles and Facebook posts.

The bishop has announced he was convening a diocesan review board, an independent group of lay people including experts in law enforcement and psychology to investigate past abuse allegations.

Korta said he knows of a couple of other Catholic schools that sent messages home to parents, but diocesan officials left it to schools to decide how to communicate with parents.

Diocesan officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The portion of the Pius X message that concerned some parents said:

“If anyone has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect away from school, you should call local law enforcement or the Department of Health and Services hotline ..."

The next sentence said “If any person has any questions, information, or allegations regarding boundary violation or abuse committed by diocesan personnel please contact (the diocesan safe environment coordinator.)”

Korta said that portion of the message was poorly communicated, and in fact he was trying to direct people to law enforcement or the hotline. When he said “away from school,” he said, he was referring to people away from school who become aware of problems, not abuse occurring away from school.

“In no way was I trying to say don’t call police on diocesan personnel -- just the opposite,” he said. “I thought I was doing a good job of directing people to police and the hotline.”

Families can call the diocese's safe environment coordinator to get information, or to share concerns that don’t involve criminal behavior, Korta said.

He said he was trying to offer a point of contact in the church for families to discuss such issues but did not mean to imply they should do that instead of calling law enforcement.

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