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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Friday, January 28, 2011

Abuse lawsuit against Omaha Catholic officials settles-SNAP responds

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Fr. John M. Fiala is being prosecuted. It’s a shame, however, that Catholic officials in Omaha who enabled and concealed his crimes, however, get off easy by just writing a check.

Last April, Omaha Catholic officials disclosed that they knew eight years earlier that the cleric had made sexual advances toward a child in the 1080s.

And today, in a remarkably disingenuous understatement, Omaha’s archbishop says his diocese settled “because it was not clear that all appropriate information was shared when Fiala left the archdiocese in 1996 to join SOLT.” The sad, simple truth is that Omaha Catholic officials knew and suspected that Fiala was a criminal but kept this information secret from parishioners, the public and even other church officials. They should be honest and clearly admit this.

We applaud this brave victim for having the courage to step forward and the wisdom to take legal action and the patience to endure a long struggle to expose a predator, warn unsuspecting families, safeguard vulnerable children, and achieve some justice.

We hope that Omaha’s archbishop will go beyond this minimal step and aggressively seek out others who know of or suspect his crimes and prod them to contact law enforcement.

We urge the archbishop to personally visit each site where Fiala worked and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police. Settling lawsuits with the already-wounded is fine. Helping to protect the still-vulnerable is better. Catholic officials have many resources that could be used to help reverse decades of secrecy about clergy sex crimes and better enable law enforcement to successfully prosecute Fiala and keep him away from kids for a long time. Fiala faces the pending criminal child sex abuse indictments in Texas.

Fiala is accused of hiring a hit man to kill one of his victims. That shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored. He is a danger to adults and kids. It’s crucial that church officials take strong, clear steps to help make sure prosecutors are able to convict and imprison him, not just pay off his victims and walk away.

Let’s hope that every person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes – by Fiala or other church employees - will find the courage and strength to speak up, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect kids and start healing.

(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 22 years and have more than 10,000 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)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, peterisely@yahoo.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com, Barbara Garcia Boehland 210 621 2177, Cell 210 725 8329, b.healinghands@att.net

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 28, 2011

Archdiocese of Omaha settles sexual abuse lawsuit

January 28, 2011 (OMAHA, NE) – The Archdiocese of Omaha announced on Friday it had settled a lawsuit involving allegations of sexual abuse by the Rev. John Fiala, one of its former priests living in Texas.

Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, said that after participating in court-ordered mediation in Texas, the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Corpus Christi agreed Thursday to share in a settlement amount that will be paid by their insurance carrier. McNeil said the terms of the settlement are not being disclosed at the request of the plaintiff.

The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) and the Archdiocese of San Antonio were also named in the lawsuit. SOLT, a society of apostolic life located in Texas, settled with the plaintiff on Thursday. The Archdiocese of San Antonio settled January 25, 2011.

“The Archdiocese of Omaha was a willing participant in the settlement because it was not clear that all appropriate information was shared when Fiala left the archdiocese in 1996 to join SOLT,” McNeil said.

McNeil said Fiala was ordained in 1984. Fiala was initially accused in 2008 of interference in the custody of a Texas minor. As the investigation moved forward, allegations of sexual abuse were also made by the victim. Fiala is currently waiting to be tried on the allegations of sexual abuse as well as a murder-for-hire plot.

In the spring of 2002, the Archdiocese of Omaha received a complaint that Fiala made sexual advances against an individual sometime in the mid-1980s, when the individual was a minor. The advances were purportedly refused by the individual. The archdiocese notified the Sarpy County Attorney and Fiala’s religious superior in Texas, as well as the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, where Fiala was serving at the time.

McNeil said the Archdiocese of Omaha is committed to serving the needs of anyone who has been abused by any member of the clergy or Church employee.

In the last eight years, the Archdiocese of Omaha has implemented safe environment training programs for approximately 20,000 adults and 36,000 young people enrolled in its Catholic schools’ and religious education programs.

McNeil said the archdiocese will make no further comment about the case.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
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