ARCHDIOCESE OF OMAHA NE
The purpose of the John Jay College Study was to gather data about the causes and circumstances relating to the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy. Our archdiocesan report refers only to priests and deacons of the archdiocese, and priests and deacons from other dioceses officially assigned for a time in the Omaha Archdiocese. By design, religious order priests are not included in the study since they have their own community database separate from the archdiocese.
Reports or allegations of abuse after 2002 are not included in the John Jay Study or in this archdiocesan report. Any allegations that surfaced in 2003 and beyond will be addressed separately according to the norms outlined in The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The following is a summary of the information included in our archdiocesan report.
Even though we have received most of the allegations of sexual abuse
the past few years, the majority of these allegations stem from incidents
which occurred before 1990. Following is the breakdown according to the
Nine priests identified as sexual abusers out of a total of 535
From 1950 to 2002, 535 of our own diocesan priests and 180 permanent deacons served in Northeast Nebraska. We also had 48 extern priests from other dioceses who served for a time in the archdiocese.
Of the 535 diocesan priests who belonged to the Archdiocese of Omaha from 1950 to 2002, nine have had credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors leveled against them. This is 1.68 percent of the diocesan priests who belonged to the archdiocese during these years.
Two of these nine archdiocesan priest-perpetrators are deceased, three are elderly, one is confined to a state hospital, and three live in retirement. These men are no longer in priestly ministry. They may not present themselves as priests or exercise ministry in any public way.
One case of abuse – one case too many
Even though the number of priests in the archdiocese who abused minors these past 52 years is small in comparison to all the priests who have served in Northeast Nebraska, the fact of priestly abuse is still a painful reality for us. For a priest to sexually abuse anyone, especially a young person, is contrary to the mission of the Church and to the very essence of the ordained priesthood; it strikes at the very heart of our Catholic faith. This behavior is seriously sinful and criminal on the part of the perpetrators who were committed to continue the mission of Jesus among his people. This abuse is a terrible betrayal of the victims and their families, and the people in the parishes where it occurred. All Catholics are in agreement that one case of sexual abuse in this archdiocese was one too many.
Although most of the abuse has occurred in the past, we have a present obligation to help victims and their families cope with the awful effects of being abused by one who represented the Church. I and the priests of the archdiocese must continue to express our sorrow and our apologies to the victims, and our willingness to do what we can personally to heal the wounds that have been inflicted on them. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires us to promise that we will not only protect every child in the archdiocese in the present but that we will do what we can to bring healing to those who were abused in the past.
Financial costs to archdiocese
Our records show that, over these 52 years, the archdiocese’s insurance carrier paid a total of $2,805,534 for legal costs, settlements with victims, and counseling related to sexual abuse. Of this amount, $2,098,487 was paid for the trial and settlements to 11 victims of one priest. During this same time frame, the archdiocese paid from its own resources $24,768 in legal fees and $44,640 in evaluation and counseling fees for victims. While these financial costs of nearly $70,000 are significant by themselves, they span 52 years, and they have to be viewed in relationship to the millions of dollars expended every year by the archdiocese for its many ministries and programs.
Reaching out to victims is a continuing process
My staff and I concur that financial costs for past sexual abuse of minors are not the main concern. We have a serious obligation to make every effort we can to reach out to any victims who have not come forward, as well as those who have already surfaced.
We know that the only way to overcome anger and serious hurt and alienation in those who have been abused is through a process of reconciliation. Victims and their families need the opportunity to vent their anger and hurt. And even though perpetrators are dead or old or removed from priestly ministry, I and the priests of the archdiocese need to apologize to the victims and help them overcome the trauma of sexual abuse. Many need counseling and sometimes long-term therapy. They need the opportunity to make their peace with the Lord who was also wounded by the betrayal of one of his priests. They need to be reconciled with the Church that sometimes through her bishops did not act promptly or adequately in the past to meet their needs.
It may take a long time for reconciliation to finally take place for some victims, if ever. But our priests, the Archdiocesan Review Board, the Victim Assistance Coordinator and I will do what we can to reach out to victims and their families, and to parishes that have been wounded by sexual abuse. This means much prayer at the foot of the cross, healing services and reconciliation opportunities, and the need to say over and over again “I am sorry for what has happened to you.”
This has been a difficult process for us
The gathering and review of this data has been a difficult process for us. It has forced us to acknowledge and accept the fact that children have been victimized by clergy in our archdiocese. We are learning to watch for signs of abuse and to respond promptly to them. I can assure the people of this archdiocese that no credible report of sexual abuse of a young person will ever be ignored in the future, and no one who abuses children will be tolerated in ministry in this archdiocese. As the Church of Northeast Nebraska, all of us must be committed to the full protection of young people at all times and in all places, and we must pledge ourselves to help those who have been abused in the past.
Through our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests, through deacon councils and lay ministry programs, through parish pastoral councils and parish staffs, and through all the teachers and catechists in the archdiocese, we will not relent in our efforts to implement fully The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in Northeast Nebraska. With God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be a stronger, holier and healthier Church for our efforts.
This is my hope and prayer for the people of our archdiocese as we enter into the third millennium of the Church’s existence and continuing vitality.
(For information on the implementation of The Charter for the Protection
of Children and Young People in the archdiocese, see www.archomaha.com)
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