258 abuse victims found in Nebraska AG investigation into clergy sexual assault
In August 2018, on the heels of the scathing grand jury report on six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson took steps toward getting to the bottom of clergy abuse in his own state. We are grateful that the AG initiated this investigation and, more importantly, opened up a hotline so that survivors' voices could be heard. We hope that this example is followed by the attorneys general in the remaining states that have yet to open an investigation.
In the report issued today, AG Peterson reported that his office received 258 complaints of sexual abuse by clergy. However, in a sobering and disappointing fashion, it turned out that only one of those cases could be prosecuted, although the victim, in that case, decided to not move forward with charges.
To us, this is a sad example of how the Catholic Church’s “Circle of Secrecy” helped to cover-up crimes and keep victims silent for so long that they have no shot at seeing justice through the criminal courts. This clearly shows the need for reform of the criminal statute of limitations going forward. It also shows the need to reform the civil statute of limitations, so that survivors of abuse will at least have the opportunity to name their abuser and any enablers in a court of law, getting information that can help protect children and prevent abuse out into the public sphere.
The numbers in this report are staggering. The examination of records indicates that there were 158 victims in the Omaha Archdiocese, 97 in the Lincoln Diocese, and 3 in the Grand Island Diocese. 236 victims were male, primarily boys, and 22 were female. In Omaha, 163 were male and 15 were female, in Lincoln, 92 were male and 5 were female, and in Grand Island 1 was male and 2 were female. In the Omaha Archdiocese, the majority of victims were aged 11-13. In the Lincoln Diocese, most were older, aged 20 and above. In the Grand Island Diocese, 2 were aged 10 or younger, and one was 20 or older. Despite these numbers, our initial read on this report leads us to believe that there are likely more victims.
It is also no surprise that the findings of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office found overwhelming evidence of incidents of abuse and cover-up that go back decades. It was also no shock to find out that the complaints received by this office were almost entirely limited to Catholic clergy or others involved in the Church. Now that these facts have been made public, we are calling on Catholic officials in Nebraska to disclose the complete assignment histories for each of these perpetrators and also to explain how they plan to notify parents and parishioners about the abusers who worked in their midst.
The number of those who came forward was significant, and we honor the courage and strength of the survivors who spoke out. As an organization, we have always said that our most powerful tool is the light of our truth. This report speaks to that power. It will take action by many to obtain the justice that has long been denied. We are happy to play a part in urging statewide investigations nationally and look forward to supporting victims and advocates in those states as we move forward.
Our final suggestion to the Nebraska Catholic Conference is to take immediate action on these names, first by sharing a complete look at clergy abuse in their state with parents and parish communities. Tell the truth about how this all happened, stop protecting the Church's reputation, and instead start saving children and supporting victims in their path towards healing and justice. But most importantly, practice what is preached from your pulpits.