Priest Who Resigned Sues Archdiocese Seeking Damages
By Jerry Guenther
Norfolk Daily News
September 3, 2020
WEST POINT — A Catholic priest who resigned from the Archdiocese of Omaha while in West Point after he was accused of misconduct with young adults and minors in Schuyler has sued the archdiocese.
The Rev. Andy Syring, who was a 41-year-old priest who had been assigned to St. Mary Catholic Church in West Point when he resigned in 2018, denied the allegations at the time and continues to do so.
Syring had served as associate pastor at West Point since 2016 and served the archdiocese from 2011 until his resignation in 2018.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 28 in Cuming County District Court, Syring is seeking $2.1 million in damages, along with costs. Throughout the nine-page petition, Syring is often referred to as “Father Andy” as he had been known around West Point and other parishes where he served.
The amount of damages are based on Syring’s background of having two master’s degrees serving as a teacher and counselor. He could reasonably expect to earn $60,000 a year for 35 years based on his qualifications, but has not been able to find full-time employment, according to the lawsuit.
Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese, said on Thursday, "Fr. Andrew Syring’s dispute with the Archdiocese of Omaha concerns a personnel issue and involves internal Church discipline. Since his complaint is now a matter of litigation, the Archdiocese will withhold comment for now and respond to the allegations only within the confines of the lawsuit."
“Father Andy was told by the Archbishop that his ministry had been ‘above reproach’ and that there were no complaints against him, but the archdiocese’s standard for public ministry had changed and therefore he was being removed from public ministry by the Archdiocese immediately” in 2018, according to the lawsuit.
The allegations against him were from 2014, the archdiocese said in 2018. That’s when Syring was associate pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler.
The archbishop removed Syring from Divine Mercy in Schuyler for “unwanted touching of young adults, publicly hugging and kissing minors on the cheek and inappropriate conversations with young adults and teenagers,” the archdiocese said in 2018.
“Because Father Andy owed the Archbishop a duty of obedience and the Archbishop was prohibiting Father Andy from serving publicly as a priest going forward, Father Andy had no meaningful choice but to resign his position,” according to the lawsuit.
“A Roman Catholic Bishop, in his diocese, is like a king or ruler as to any matter pertaining to Catholicism. His word is law,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleged that a press release from the archdiocese was published in several newspapers, television stations and web sites. The press release published a list of church personnel accused of criminal misconduct with minors since 1978 and “Father Andy’s name was on that list,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Father Andy in 2013 began serving in Schuyler and “categorically denied any wrongdoing and has consistently maintained his innocence to date.”
The lawsuit states that pursuant to the archdiocese’s standard procedure, the allegation was thoroughly investigated by the local police and county sheriff. All law enforcement who interviewed and investigated Father Andy found no wrongdoing by him. The archdiocese subsequently had the allegation investigated by a retired agent of the FBI and no wrongdoing was identified, according to the lawsuit.
At the archdiocese’s insistence, Father Andy went to a treatment center for priests. The assessment resulted in a normal profile, the lawsuit states.
He then went to another treatment center in Canada, and “testing at both of these institutions was that Father Andy was not a pedophile, he was not antisocial, he was not predatory, he did not have a sexual disorder, he was not a homosexual, he was not a narcissist and he was not an exploiter. They found no indication that he would want to hurt anyone,” according to the lawsuit.
Syring is represented by the Koenig Law Firm of Beatrice.