Lincoln bishop names task force to review how diocese treated past accusations of abuse

November 1, 2018

LINCOLN — The Catholic Bishop in Lincoln has named a four-person task force to discern whether the southern Nebraska diocese properly dealt with past accusations of abuse against priests and others associated with the church.

Bishop James Conley called it “an instrumental step towards healing” in a column that will appear in the diocesan newspaper, the Southern Nebraska Register.

“In order for the Diocese to move forward and heal from our current crisis — both nationally and locally — we must acknowledge what has taken place in the past, learn from any mistakes, and set a clear direction for the future,” Conley wrote.

He said the task force will be asked to provide recommendations for improvement of practices by Jan. 31, or as soon as its work is completed. The task force, he said, will review diocesan files and seek out any additional information and interviews, “independent from me and my senior staff,” to ensure that “anyone credibly accused is held accountable.”

Members are: Richard Herink, a Lincoln banker; Mari Lane Gewecke, who operates a consulting company; retired assistant U.S. Attorney William Mickle; and Susan Wilkinson, an insurance company executive.

This summer, amid revelations elsewhere about sexually abusive priests, the Lincoln Diocese revealed that it had investigated five priests for alleged abuse or improper behavior. Some of the allegations date to the 1980s. Since then, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has launched a criminal investigation.

All three Catholic dioceses in the state say they are cooperating.