Retired priest accused of sexual abuse removed from ministry

October 28, 2018 (Omaha, NE) – Archbishop George Lucas has permanently removed the Rev. Donald Cleary from public ministry after the retired priest refused to contest an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the mid-1980s.

The archdiocese received the allegation in early October and immediately reported it to the Wayne County Attorney.

The complainant reported that the abuse occurred in Wayne. Cleary was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Wayne from 1986-1998.

Cleary, 73, had been living at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha since his retirement in 2015. He was celebrating weekday and weekend Masses at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James Parish in Omaha.

According to Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann, St. James and St. Mary parishes were informed of the allegation at the weekend Masses, as well as parents whose children attend St. James School.

McNeil said the archdiocese has never previously received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Cleary.

Cleary was ordained in 1971 by Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan. He served as associate pastor and pastor of a number of urban and rural parishes during his 44 years in active ministry.

McNeil emphasized that anyone who has been sexually abused by church personnel should contact law enforcement. Allegations of sexual abuse can also be reported to Mary Beth Hanus, the archdiocese’s manager of victim assistance, at 402-827-3798.

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Timeline of events

  • Saturday, 10/6/18 and Sunday, 10/7/18
    Claims received from mother of the victim and then from the victim, detailing abuse that took place in the mid-1980s when victim was a minor.
  • Saturday, 10/6/18
    Fr. Cleary suspended from ministerial duties.
  • Monday, 10/8/18
    Wayne County Attorney notified.
  • Friday, 10/12/18
    Notification received from Wayne County Attorney that internal, archdiocesan investigation could commence.
  • Monday, 10/15/18
    Internal investigation begins.
  • Friday, 10/19/18
    Meeting with Fr. Cleary and counsel. Fr. Cleary did not contest the allegations.
    Fr. Cleary was removed from his assignment, restricted from wearing clerical garb, and forbidden to reside on parish property.
  • Saturday, 10/27/18 and Sunday, 10/28/18
    Public notifications made to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish (Omaha), St. James Parish (Omaha), St. James/Seton School (Omaha), St. Mary Parish (Wayne), and to larger community via news release.
  • Forthcoming: Saturday, 11/3/18 and Sunday, 11/4/18
    Pulpit announcements made in all other parishes where Fr. Don Cleary served.