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Two Omaha-area priests receive ecclesiastical penalties after sexual abuse investigations

The Archdiocese of Omaha has found two archdiocesan priests - in separate cases - guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and administered ecclesiastical penalties. One was dismissed from the priesthood, the other sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

After extensive investigations that included reviews of evidence by officials at the Vatican and experts in canon law, Archbishop George J. Lucas Nov. 22 dismissed Father Alfred J. Salanitro, 54, from the clerical state. Salanitro is prohibited from all priestly functions and ministries and cannot serve as a priest in the Catholic Church, Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor, said in a news release.

In addition to prayer and penance, Father Franklin A. Dvorak, 69, is prohibited from publicly exercising his priestly ministry, although he retains his clerical state, Deacon McNeil said. He cannot celebrate Mass publicly or administer the sacraments. Father Dvorak also was instructed Nov. 22 not to wear clerical attire, or to present himself publicly as a priest, the chancellor said.

The archdiocese has provided pastoral outreach to the victims, and Archbishop Lucas has sent letters about outcomes of the cases to the members of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue, where Salanitro last served, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha, where Father Dvorak last served.

Salanitro was ordained in 1989. Father Dvorak was ordained in 1970 and will reach the priest retirement age of 70 in February. His term as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton expired last summer.

Salanitro and Father Dvorak can appeal the ecclesiastical penalties. No criminal charges were expected because the statute of limitations has run out in both cases, Deacon McNeil said.

Both cases were reported to law enforcement and investigated by the archbishop and the Archdiocesan Review Board, an 11-member volunteer board consisting of childcare experts, law enforcement officials, attorneys, clergy and mental health professionals that advises the archbishop on the protection of young people. The board was created in 2002 in response to the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Young People."

In both situations, the archbishop and the board found the evidence met the church's standard for a credible allegation. Results of the separate investigations were forwarded to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) in Rome, which has sole competence in resolving allegations of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics.

The CDF reviewed the evidence in both cases and authorized Archbishop Lucas to resolve the matters through an administrative penal process, which consists of two assessors who are experts in canon law assisting the archbishop in determining innocence or guilt and providing the accused opportunities to review the evidence and defend themselves.

In Father Dvorak's case, the archdiocese received an allegation in April 2012 that he had sexually abused a female student from 1970-1972 when was a priest in Norfolk. Archbishop Lucas placed Father Dvorak on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The archdiocese began investigating an allegation against Salanitro in December 2011, when he was pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue. A Carter Lake, Iowa, man reported he was sexually abused by Salanitro from 1991 to 1994, beginning when he was 11 years old. At that time, Salanitro was associate pastor of Holy Cross Parish.

The archdiocese notified law enforcement officials and Archbishop Lucas placed Salanitro on administrative leave pending the archdiocese's investigation, which also identified two additional adult males who claimed Salanitro sexually abused them when they were teenagers. The archdiocese reported those allegations to law enforcement officials.

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