Archdiocese of Omaha sign

Some churches in the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha used time before and during Mass on Sunday to react to the revelation of 38 clergy members being accused of sexual misdeeds with minors.

The archdiocese announced Friday that “substantiated claims of sexual abuse of, or sexual misconduct with, a minor” had been made against 34 priests and four deacons on a list it provided to Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who had asked for the information. The files go back to 1978, as requested by the attorney general. Only a few of the accused have faced criminal charges or civil lawsuits.

At St. Columbkille in Papillion, the Rev. Dave Reeson told church members that the Steinhausen Center will be renamed because the Rev. Robert O. Steinhausen was named in the report. Steinhausen died in 1993 at age 70 after 21½ years at the helm of St. Columbkille.

The archdiocese received a substantiated allegation against Steinhausen in 2008, after his death, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese.

He said the archdiocese considers an allegation substantiated when it is supported by sufficient evidence or information, leading archdiocesan officials to believe that the claim is true.

A second allegation was made against Steinhausen, but the information was received third-hand and couldn’t be substantiated, McNeil said.

The archdiocese has been discreet in revealing details of allegations to prevent further traumatizing the alleged victims, McNeil has said in the past. In some cases, law enforcement has provided that information.

At St. James Parish in Omaha, a video of Archbishop George Lucas discussing the report was shown before Mass. Parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Omaha were asked to pray for the victims of abuse.

The archdiocese’s announcement did not include details on the cases. They appear to range widely in severity, from a deacon once laying hands on a teenager with whom he was praying, to allegations of sexual abuse of multiple youths over several years.

Some of the allegations date back 50 years or more. Others occurred more recently, such as a young man’s 2018 misdemeanor sexual assault report against the Rev. Francis Nigli. That report rocked Omaha’s St. Wenceslaus Parish after people learned that Nigli had faced a similar accusation from an O’Neill, Nebraska, 18-year-old in 2013.

World-Herald staff writer Susan Szalewski contributed to this report.

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