Catholic Church Clergy Abused at Least 258 Nebraska Victims, AG Reports Says

Nov. 4, 2021, 11:45 a.m. ·

Attorney General Doug Peterson Talks About a Catholic Church Report
Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson speaks about his office's findings at a Thursday morning press conference. (Photo by Will Bauer, Nebraska Public Media)

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The Catholic church abused hundreds of children statewide and covered up those abuses, according to a new report released on Thursday from the Nebraska Attorney General's Office.

Doug Peterson’s office identified 258 victims of sexual abuse dating back to the 1930s across the state’s three Catholic diocese.

“The extent of physical and psychological harm caused by the perpetrators and failure of the church to safeguard so many victims is gut wrenching." Peterson said at Thursday press conference.

And Peterson said, by no means, did his office find every victim or abuser. In a 3-year investigation released Thursday, the office found evidence of 57 abusers – few of whom are still alive. Investigators found evidence that the church knew about the assaults and didn’t properly report them to law enforcement.

“Don’t ever put the reputation of your association, your church organization, above protecting the children," he said.

Approximately 91% of the victims were male, and nearly 60% were legal minors at the time of the abuse, according to the report.

The findings in Nebraska are not the first of their kind, and they fit into the bigger picture nationally. The attorney general referenced similar investigations in Pennsylvania, Iowa and Colorado.

A sexual abuse victim who showed up at the investigation’s release asked that we only identify her as Stacy. She said she was relieved at the announcement. “I feel like people are listening now," she said. "I’ve never had that before.”

“It is clear that the hurt is still felt, even if the abuse was perpetrated many years ago," Nebraska’s three Catholic bishops said in a joint statement responding to the report. "We apologize to the victims and their families for the pain, betrayal and suffering that never should have been experienced in the Church."

Despite all the evidence against the clergy, Peterson said his office can’t pursue criminal charges against any of the living abusers, and that’s because the statute of limitations has expired.

"The thing that’s difficult and frustrating for us is that we’ve not been able to bring our own justice system to bear on those predators. And that’s extremely frustrating.”

Extending the statute of limitations would need to be initiated by state lawmakers. And that’s an uphill battle. But Peterson says victims could look into opening civil litigation on their own.

This is a developing story. Check later for updates.