Omaha archdiocese: 38 clergy accused of sex abuse since ’78
OMAHA, Nebraska – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha released a list Friday of 38 priests and other clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, a move prompted by a request from the state’s top prosecutor.
The archdiocese said 24 of the priests were under its control when the allegations surfaced but that all of the men have since died or been removed from the clergy. At least two men on the list were convicted and served prison sentences for molesting children.
The archdiocese said the allegations date back to 1956, but no cases were reported before 1978. Reports on 10 other visiting priests and four deacons were also submitted.
“We acknowledge this report with sorrow, and know that it will cause a great deal of pain,” Omaha Archbishop George Lucas said in a statement. “We’re deeply saddened so many innocent minors and young adults were harmed by the Church’s ministers. To victims and their families, I am sorry for the pain, betrayal and suffering you have experienced in the Church.”
The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office requested the reports in August, shortly after a Pennsylvania grand jury report estimated that hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s and that senior Church officials covered up the abuse.
A spokeswoman for Nebraska’s attorney general did not immediately answer questions from The Associated Press on Friday about whether it had seen the Omaha archdiocese’s list or whether it had received similar requested reports from the state’s other two Catholic dioceses.
Lucas said no one currently serving in the archdiocese’s ministry has been the subject of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a young person. The archdiocese has 132 active priests and 215 active deacons.
He acknowledged failures by Church leaders and promised transparency moving forward.
“When we see these numbers that go back many decades, we can see that there was a pattern of failure – both on the part of those who misused their office to abuse minors and vulnerable adults, and on the part of those who refused to listen to victims in a compassionate, just and forthright way,” the archbishop said.
Of the 38 clergy names submitted, the archdiocese said 34 had offended before 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Bishops created a charter requiring U.S. dioceses to protect children from abuse.
The list of credibly accused clergy, which is available at report.archomaha.org , includes John Fiala, who left the Omaha Archdiocese in 1996. He died last year in a Texas prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a teenage boy and of trying to hire a hit man to kill the victim. Fiala was ordained by the Omaha archdiocese in 1984. The archdiocese paid an undisclosed settlement to the victim in 2011.
The list also includes defrocked Omaha priest Daniel Herek, who was sentenced to prison in 1999 for sexually assaulting and videotaping a 14-year-old boy. He also served jail time several years later for exposing himself in an Omaha parking lot.
The list will be updated if the archdiocese receives additional substantiated allegations and after the archdiocese conducts a forensic audit of its historic clergy files, according to the archdiocese.