Nebraska AG finds 258 victims of Catholic church sex abuse

Nov 3, 2021, 11:36 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2021, 2:04 pm
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson discusses the findings of a statewide Catholic church sex a...

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson discusses the findings of a statewide Catholic church sex abuse investigation on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, at a Nebraska Department of Justice office in Lincoln, Neb. The investigation identified 258 victims who made credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic church officials in the state going back decades. (AP Photo/Grant Schulte)

(AP Photo/Grant Schulte)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska attorney general’s office investigation identified 258 victims who made credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic church officials in the state going back decades, including many that high-ranking church leaders knew about and didn’t report to the authorities, according to a report released Thursday.

Prosecutors can’t charge against any current or former church officials with a crime because the statutes of limitations have expired in the vast majority of cases, Attorney General Doug Peterson said at a news conference announcing the findings. In one case where charges are still possible, Peterson said the accuser declined to participate in a prosecution.

The report outlines each known case in graphic detail, stretching from the 1930s to the 2010s. More than 90% of the victims were boys, usually young teenagers who served as altar servers.

“The extent of the physical and psychological harm caused by the perpetrators and the failure of the church to safeguard so many victims is gut-wrenching,” said Peterson, fighting back tears at several points during a news conference.

The investigation identified 57 church officials from Nebraska’s three dioceses who were credibly accused, including 51 priests, four deacons and two teachers. There were 97 documented victims from the Lincoln Diocese, 158 from the Omaha Archdiocese and and three from the Grand Island Diocese.

Most of the reported abuse took place in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, although 10 people reported abuse that took place in the 2010s.

Peterson said he was frustrated that prosecutors couldn’t file charges against anyone in the church, and would support efforts to loosen or eliminate old statutes of limitation for such crimes. Nebraska has since eliminated statutes of limitation for child sex assaults, but the change didn’t apply retroactively to old cases and the old law prevents those victims from filing lawsuits.

“This has in effect denied these victims justice and I am committed to setting this right,” said state Sen. Rich Pahls, of Omaha.

Pahls promised to introduce a bill during next year’s legislative session “to address this egregious and unacceptable state of affairs.”

In a joint statement, the bishops of all three Nebraska dioceses apologized to the victims and said they had taken steps to try to protect children and vulnerable adults.

“This report also points out mistakes made in the way dioceses received, reported and responded to allegations of sexual abuse in the past,” the bishops said. “We have been committed in recent years to comprehensive measures to protect young people and vulnerable adults, preventing abuse, offering healing for past victims of abuse and fully cooperating with civil authorities in these matters.”

Nebraska authorities launched the investigation and created a victim hotline in 2018 after several accusers came forward with allegations against the conservative Lincoln Diocese, which for years was the only U.S. diocese that refused to participate in annual reviews of sexual misconduct. The reviews were a key reform enacted in response to the 2002 Boston clergy abuse scandal.

Some of the allegations in Lincoln were against the Rev. James Benton, an elderly priest who only retired in 2017 even though church leaders had known about abuse accusations against him for at least 15 years.

Benton’s nephew, Lincoln chiropractor Stan Schulte, said his uncle molested him at a rectory sleepover in the early 1990s when he was a boy.

Another Lincoln man, Jeffrey Hoover, reported a similar experience with Benton during a camping trip in the early 1980s while he and the priest slept in the same bed. Schulte has said he probably never would have been molested if church officials had handled Hoover’s allegations against Benton properly.

Schulte, who attended Thursday’s news conference and has pushed for accountability in the church, said he doesn’t believe the church’s current leaders have done enough to protect the public and that they should be removed from their posts. He said one credibly accused priest has been allowed to live in the Bonacum House in Lincoln, a home for retired priests that’s a short walk from both a public and a private elementary school.

He said another credibly accused priest was assigned to a home in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, next to a Boy Scout camp, and that the church isn’t monitoring him and didn’t tell the public.

Schulte said another church official in Omaha has also been accused of engaging in a gay orgy with a subordinate, although no minors were involved in that incident.

“If this were to happen in the public school system, and a principal knew for decades that there were teachers abusing children and refused to act, that principal would be asked to step down immediately,” Schulte said. “If the current leadership doesn’t step down, we’re very naive to think that there will ever be any real change.”


Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Latvian Prime Minister and Head of board of leading political party Jauna Vienotiba (New Unity) Kri...
Associated Press

Latvian premier’s party emerges on top in general election

HELSINKI (AP) — Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ ruling center-right party won the most votes in Latvia’s general election, centrist parties were runners-up and pro-Moscow parties crashed in a vote that was shaped by neighboring Russia’s war in Ukraine and divisions among the Baltic country’s sizable ethnic Russian minority. With more than 97% of the votes […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian servicemen drive a tank on the way to Siversk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Oct. 1,...
Associated Press

Ukraine presses counteroffensive after Russian setback

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown with suicide drones on Sunday, and Ukraine pushed ahead with its counteroffensive after taking back control of a strategic eastern city. Russia’s loss of Lyman, which it had been using as a transport and logistics hub, is a new blow to the Kremlin as it […]
1 day ago
Police cars wrecked in soccer riots are seen on the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Jav...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What’s behind Indonesia’s deadly soccer match?

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Violence and a deadly stampede that erupted following a domestic league soccer match Saturday night marked another tragedy in Indonesian football. Here’s a look at how the chaos occurred and what is being done to prevent future incidents. ___ HOW DID THE CHAOS OCCUR? Chaos broke out after Persebaya Surabaya defeated […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Military: Gunmen kill Pakistani UN peacekeeper in east Congo

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani soldier serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed in a militant attack in the country’s volatile east, the military said. A group of six militants reached the United Nations’ permanent operation base in the district of Minembwe, ostensibly to surrender their weapons as part […]
1 day ago
Buddhist monks perform rituals during the funeral of famed American extreme skier Hilaree Nelson in...
Associated Press

Famed US extreme skier gets traditional Nepalese funeral

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A famed extreme skier from the United States who was killed after falling from one of the world’s tallest mountains was on Sunday given a traditional funeral at a Sherpa cremation ground as Buddhist monks officiated over a ceremony attended by family, friends and government officials. Hilaree Nelson, 49, fell off […]
1 day ago
Pasika Bagerimana stands outside a temporary shelter she shares with others who fled fighting, in N...
Associated Press

Rebel violence in eastern Congo causes hunger to soar

NYIRAGONGO, Congo (AP) — The last thing Pasika Bagerimana remembers before her sons died were their cries of hunger. But the 25-year-old mother had nothing to feed them. “‘Mom, I need to eat. Can you give me food?'” they pleaded with her. Daniel, 2, and Bonane, 5, died just weeks apart in July after fleeing […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Nebraska AG finds 258 victims of Catholic church sex abuse