Changes Dateline from Boston; Navy Says Former Nebraska Priest Accused of Abuse Was Court Martialed for Lewd Conduct

By Kevin O'Hanlon
Associated Press
March 29, 2002

The Navy confirmed on Good Friday that an ex-priest accused of sexually abusing four Nebraska boys in 1978 was later convicted of lewd conduct involving boys as a military chaplain.

Robert Hrdlicka, who became a Navy chaplain in 1986, was court martialed for seven counts of acts unbecoming an officer, Navy spokesman Lt. Jon Spiers said. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1993 and released in 1999. His whereabouts are unknown; a telephone listed under the same name in nearby Crete rang unanswered Friday.

The case - among many to rock the Roman Catholic church across the country - has been revived in the Lincoln Diocese, which said this week that the four brothers, now adults, are demanding $2 million to keep quiet about their alleged abuse at the hands of Hrdlicka.

"I'm not going to say it's blackmail," said attorney Rocky Weber, who represents the diocese. "They demanded this payment and threatened to go public if the bishop didn't accommodate them. There is no intention of paying."

As Easter weekend approached, sex abuse scandals that have troubled the Roman Catholic Church continued to come to light in cities across the country.

In Boston, police arrested a man who tried to confront the priest he had accused of sexually abusing him 23 years ago. Garry Garland, 38, who was arrested Thursday at the home of Monsignor Frederick Ryan, is charged with driving offenses and disorderly conduct and was expected to remain under psychiatric care.

St. Louis school officials defended the district for hiring a defrocked priest as an elementary school counselor, saying the church secretly settled sex-abuse lawsuits against him. The comments came a day after the former priest, James Beine, was accused of exposing himself to boys at the grade school.

In Detroit, a county prosecutor subpoenaed a bishop for information in an investigation into a sexual misconduct charge leveled against a priest by a woman.

In the Navy case, Hrdlicka was relieved of duty after an investigation began into reports of molestation while he was stationed at the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy in 1988. Investigators said there were two incidents in Italy and five in Beaufort, S.C., involving boys ages 7 to 11.

Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz said there was no record of any accusations against Hrdlicka when he took over as bishop in 1992.

He said he suspended Hrdlicka, who was still affiliated with the diocese, in 1993 after learning of his troubles in the Navy. Bruskewitz said he then launched an inquiry and eventually learned of the allegations made by the four brothers.

He said the brothers and their representatives did not ask for compensation at that time and were concerned only that the priest "was no longer functioning as a priest."

In Omaha, Archbishop Elden Curtiss is under fire for transferring a priest accused of viewing child pornography from a school in Norfolk and allowing him to continue teaching in the Omaha area.


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