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Grand Island diocese says it has had no priest sex abuse cases

By Joe Ruff
Associated Press
January 30, 2004

Omaha - The Diocese of Grand Island is the only one of three dioceses in the state that has released the findings of its internal audit on the number of reported child sexual abuse cases by priests since 1950.

The Rev. Mike McDermott, chancellor of the diocese headed by Bishop Lawrence McNamara, said it had no reported cases of child sexual abuse and is fully cooperating with church efforts to prevent abuse of children.

McDermott's comments came ahead of the Feb. 27 release of a national tally of clerical sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishops in the nation's 195 dioceses were asked to fill out a confidential survey on abuse cases over the last 50 years, including the number of accused priests and the cost of settlements in abuse cases.

The Omaha Archdiocese has completed its survey but no decision has been made about releasing information from it, said the Rev. Michael Gutgsell, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

The national release was expected to provide broad outlines of sexual abuse cases in the country, but not identify individual dioceses, Gutgsell said. Archbishop Elden Curtiss has talked about releasing some of the archdioceses' information, but how much and just when had not been determined, Gutgsell said.

Some dioceses around the country have released the information they have gathered. The diocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas said in late January that 46 minors were sexually abused by 22 priests and four deacons in that diocese over the last 53 years.

The Omaha Archdiocese has had several publicized cases of sexual abuse of minors. In 2002, a jury awarded $800,000 to a former altar boy and his mother after the archdiocese admitted liability for the abuse of the boy in the mid-1990s by former priest Daniel Herek.

The archdiocese has settled six other lawsuits for undisclosed amounts related to the sexual abuse of former altar boys by Herek.

The Rev. Robert Allgaier was sentenced in 2002 to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $300 fine for viewing child pornography over the Internet.

Three other priests were placed on administrative dismissal and banned from publicly offering Mass after they were accused of sexual abuse in 2002.

At Nebraska's third diocese in Lincoln, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz has refused to participate in the sex abuse survey. Bruskewitz said the survey will be flawed in part because it relies on self-reporting and is likely to include inconclusive and anonymous allegations.

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, which commissioned the study being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said recently that the Lincoln diocese has had very few reported cases of abuse involving minors.

Nationwide, more than 325 of the nation's 46,000 clergy have either resigned or have been barred from church work since the child sexual abuse crisis erupted two years ago in Boston, then spread nationwide.

The conference of bishops has encouraged new policies to prevent sexual abuse within the church, including background checks of all employees and volunteers who have regular contact with children.

Officials with the Omaha Archdiocese and Diocese of Grand Island said they have fully complied with the suggestions, but Bruskewitz has declined to require background checks of longstanding employees and volunteers in the Lincoln diocese.


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