The North Bend Eagle

 

Former NB priests included in report of misconduct to attorney general

Published 12/5/18

OMAHA – The Archdiocese of Omaha has submitted to the Nebraska attorney general documents pertaining to church personnel accused of criminal sexual misconduct since 1978.

Click here to see the complete report submitted to the AG.

The documents included information on 24 archdiocesan priests with substantiated allegations of the abuse of minors or misconduct with minors. In all, documentation on 38 clergy were given to the attorney general for alleged abuse or misconduct with minors as far back as 1956 but reported to the archdiocese between 1978-2018.

Among the priests included in the report are two that served as pastors in North Bend and Snyder: Donald Cleary and Thomas Sellentin.

“We acknowledge this report with sorrow, and know that it will cause a great deal of pain,” Archbishop George Lucas said. “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.”

Cleary was removed from public ministry by the Archdiocese in October for allegations of sexual abuse stemming from 1987, almost two decades before his time in North Bend.

Sellentin served North Bend and Snyder from 2000 to 2002, when he was removed from pastoral duties and given early retirement by Archbishop Elden Curtiss after allegations of misconduct were levied.

According to the Archdiocese report, Sellentin has had substantiated allegations of acts of sexual abuse with 20 to 35 victims between 1968 and 1989.

Archbishop Lucas said there is no one currently serving in ministry – 132 active priests and 215 active deacons in the Archdiocese of Omaha – who has had one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a young person.

“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,” Lucas said.

In recent listening sessions with rural and urban parishioners, as well as in numerous individual conversations, Lucas promised that clergy will be held to a high standard of conduct as they perform their pastoral and sacred responsibilities.

He also promised a greater transparency in the resolution of cases of misconduct involving a member of the clergy.

“The higher standards of conduct and greater transparency are seen as essential in restoring the trust that has been compromised by the misconduct of a few, as well as to do all that is reasonably possible to protect vulnerable youth and adults from harm,” Lucas said.

In recent years, Lucas said, the archdiocese has followed standards which reflected best practices to determine whether a priest could continue in ministry after having committed an act or acts of misconduct.

He said people are insisting that it is not enough to say that no criminal charges have been filed against a cleric, when a violation of his pastoral responsibility or the moral law have clearly taken place, when judging his fitness for ministry.

Lucas said he is committed to look at the placement of all clergy, to ensure that they are meeting the rightful expectations of the church and of society.

“We have to acknowledge the ugly truth of the past so that we can repent, but also so that all in the archdiocese can be resolute in our commitment to ensure that no one is hurt going forward.

“I see this as a moment of grace,” Archbishop Lucas said. “The acknowledgement of this painful part of our past allows us to better experience the healing and peace that Jesus desires for the church.”

 

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