Additional allegations have surfaced within the Catholic church resulting in priest resignations, this time in the Omaha Archdiocese.
According to a recent Omaha World-Herald reporting, three separate allegations within the Omaha archdiocese have been brought to light.
A priest from West Point, Nebraska, Rev. Andy Syring, who had previously served as associate pastor at St. Mary, was accused of “an unwanted touch to a younger adult and an inappropriate conversation” in 2014 at Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler, Nebraska.
Syring resigned on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Deacon Timothy McNeil, J.C.L., chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese, said that the allegation was evaluated by the review board and mental health experts.
“The Archbishop is returning to old files, determined to hold higher expectations for priests, so his resignation came as a result of that,” McNeil said. “There was nothing criminal, nothing that would be called ‘sexual abuse.’”
The Omaha Archdiocese reported the allegation to law enforcement, where they did not determine the action to be criminal.
McNeil said that members of the Omaha Archdiocese and Catholic church in general should be reassured by this recent wave of allegations.
“People have an expectation that priests, clergy and all church personnel are going to behave at a certain standard that’s orderly by the church,” McNeil said. “That message is loud and clear. We’re going to hold personnel to that high standard.”
McNeil also added that this is all part of the process of learning how to respond to allegations.
“We’ll get there because we’re experts in allegations having to do with minors,” McNeil said.
In addition, a retired priest who had been celebrating masses at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was asked to move out of the parish by the archdiocese and can no longer function in any kind of public ministry as of the week of Oct. 28-Nov. 3.
Fr. Donald Cleary was accused of inappropriate contact with a minor 30 years ago and he did not contest the allegation.
According to Fr. Frank Baumert, a pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the parish has sent out inquiries to other parishes Cleary worked in, but that’s as far as the investigation has gone.
Baumert said that the parish has been very compassionate and empathetic about these allegations and other allegations in the past.
“They are very understanding that there are three things that have to happen,” Baumert said. “One, we have to pray for and help the victim of the situation, two, we have to pray for and if possible help the perpetrator of the situation to help them get back into good graces with God and whatever is necessary to support them as a child of God and help them get help and three, try to make sure everyone else is safe as best as possible so these things don’t happen again.”
He believes those three things are well taken care of by the diocese because “they try to set what the parameters are for any perpetrator for what their contact with young people is afterward.”
Baumert also praised the patience and composure of the parish.
“I know that in some areas, people get very crazy and they want to get the pitchforks out to crucify someone,” he said. “That’s why I’m so proud of Elizabeth Ann; they’re a parish that understands that calm heads and lots of prayer can do far more than anger and bitterness.”
The last priest accused was Fr. Francis Nigli of St. Wenceslaus in Omaha, of sexual assault against two men, along with “soliciting Catholic school students’ cell phone numbers,” according to Omaha World-Herald reporting.
St. Wenceslaus couldn’t be reached for an interview.