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Nebraska City priest placed on leave

October 3, 2018

Lincoln’s Catholic bishop has removed another priest, this time for so-called immoral conduct with a woman.

Rev. Mark Cyza, chief administrative officer of Lourdes Central Catholic School and pastor of St. Benedict parish in Nebraska City, was placed on a temporary leave of absence, according to a statement Tuesday from Bishop James Conley.

The woman was not an employee of the school or parish, according to Conley’s statement, and the diocese hadn’t received any allegations of criminal wrongdoing or that children were at risk.

“Father Cyza has repented of his failings,” according to the statement. “Bishop Conley will make an informed decision about the next step in Father Cyza’s ministry.”

Cyza is at least the fourth priest removed by the diocese since early August, when the international sex abuse and misconduct scandal landed in Lincoln and prompted an attorney general’s investigation.

It started with published allegations of sexualized behavior by the late Monsignor Leonard Kalin during his tenure decades ago at the Newman Center.

The diocese then acknowledged sexual abuse allegations against Rev. James Benton by two men who say he tried to molest them decades ago, when they were minors. The diocese restricted the retired priest from exercising public ministry and prohibited him from being alone with minors.

And then came the series of misconduct allegations. Conley placed the pastor from St. Peter’s in Lincoln on administrative leave after learning the priest was engaged in a nonsexual but inappropriate relationship with a 19-year-old altar server. He removed the pastor of St. Mary’s in Davey, saying he’d warned the priest to not be alone with females. And he placed a rural Adams County priest on leave because of allegations of sexual misconduct with a woman.

Those three remained on administrative leave as of Wednesday, said Rev. Nicholas Kipper, a diocese spokesman.

Since August, Conley rearranged his administrative staff, hired a victim assistance coordinator, established an anonymous tip line and encouraged church members to report cases of abuse and misconduct, past and present.

But in early September, Nebraska’s attorney general also got involved, requesting the bishops in Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island provide records of sexual abuse allegations and investigations generated by their dioceses since 1978. The status of that investigation is unclear; a spokeswoman for the attorney general said Wednesday there was nothing to report.

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