NE--Omaha archbishop hides abuse report for 11 months
For immediate release: Monday, Nov. 3
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
For 11 months, Omaha’s Catholic Archbishop George Lucas hid a child sex abuse allegation against a priest in one of his parishes. That’s stunningly reckless and callous. Lucas should explain and apologize for his irresponsible delay. And parishioners at that parish – and throughout the Omaha archdiocese – should be outraged.
On a Friday evening, Halloween in fact, Omaha’s Catholic Archbishop George Lucas disclosed that he learned on 12/30/13 that Fr. Anthony Palmese was accused of abusing a child years ago. Lucas “passed the buck” and asked Fr. Palmese’ direct supervisors, a religious order called the Augustinian Recollects, to carry out an investigation, even though the order is based in New Jersey.
Then, for months and months, Lucas kept quiet. Despite repeatedly pledging to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex crimes, Lucas kept quiet. Despite a US national bishops policy that promises “openness and transparency” in such cases, Lucas kept quiet.
Finally, on a day when the revelation was most apt to get little public attention, Lucas announced the allegation.
Church officials claim the alleged victim was reluctant to cooperate with the order's investigation. Given the Catholic hierarchy’s long and continuing track record of deceit in these cases, who could blame him or her for not trusting church officials.
But that’s a dodge. Lucas knows that the quickest, easiest and best way to help determine whether an accusation against a priest is true or not is to publicly disclose it, as church policy mandates. All he has to do is put announcements in church bulletins, archdiocesan website saying “We have an allegation of abuse against Fr. X. If you have any information that might help prove or disprove the accusations, please call police, prosecutors or church officials immediately.”
We commend the brave person who reported abuse by Fr. Palmese. We hope others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes will speak up. And we hope Omaha Catholics will demand straight answers and responsible conduct from their archbishop.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)