LINCOLN — The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office on Thursday joined the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln in asking the public to report any allegations of abuse by clergy or others in authority.
In recent weeks, the Lincoln Diocese revealed that it had investigated five priests after allegations of alleged abuse or improper behavior.
Two have resigned, one was dismissed from his position as a pastor and a fourth retired. A fifth priest has been dead for 10 years.
Lincoln Bishop James Conley, in a column published Friday in the Lincoln Diocese’s Southern Nebraska Register newspaper and in previous letters read to Lincoln Diocese parishioners, asked for forgiveness for not pursuing the allegations more aggressively and more transparently, and pledged to get to the bottom of any reports of abuse.
The bishop and the Attorney General’s Office are urging anyone who has experienced even an uncomfortable incident with a priest to report it to law enforcement or the diocese.
The Attorney General’s Office asked those with allegations of abuse to report them, regardless of when they happened, to the Nebraska Child Abuse Hotline at 800-652-1999 or the Nebraska Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-422-1494. Tips can also be made online at NebraskaCrimeStoppers.com.
The Lincoln Diocese also provided another outlet to report abuse, the Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator at 402-613-2488.
“I will not and we must not dismiss or rationalize any account of any person who comes forward with a concern, and we must fully investigate every report, even more strenuously than we have in the past,” Conley wrote on Friday. “We must be fair and just, but these times and these issues rightly demand we focus on protection of minors and young adults as our first and highest priority.”
The priests who were removed and then resigned are the Rev. Charles Townsend of St. Peter’s Parish in Lincoln and the Rev. Steve Thomlinson, pastor of parishes in Exeter and Milligan. The Rev. Patrick Barvick was removed as pastor at St. Mary’s in Davey, and the Rev. James Benton retired after being banned from public ministry and restricted from being alone with minors.
Msgr. Leonard Kalin, who had been vocations director for the diocese before his retirement in 1998, has been the subject of several allegations of “emotional and physical boundary violations directed toward college students and seminarians.” The diocese is continuing to gather information, Conley said. Kalin died in 2008.