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Nebraska dioceses implement bishop reporting system

As part of a nationwide effort to ensure the accountability of Catholic bishops for protecting children from sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Omaha began its participation in the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR) March 16.

The system will receive allegations against bishops and archbishops concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct such as intentionally interfering with a civil or church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.

The process of reviewing those allegations is managed by the metropolitan within each diocesan province, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor for the archdiocese.

As leader of the Omaha archdiocese, Archbishop George J. Lucas is the metropolitan presiding over the Nebraska province, one of 32 provinces in the United States.

Lincoln and Grand Island are suffragan dioceses in the Nebraska province.

In the event of a report, a qualified lay person will assist an archbishop or bishop in conducting an initial assessment.

In the Omaha archdiocese, attorney Stephen Patrick O’Meara has been designated as that qualified lay person, given his extensive experience combatting child abuse, child pornography and human trafficking. He is currently interim chair of the Coalition on Human Trafficking in Omaha and a board member of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking.

“We’re blessed to have such a person with a deep legal, investigative and prosecutorial background,” Deacon McNeil said.

After the initial assessment, credible allegations will be forwarded to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, who will forward a report to papal staff in Rome.

If directed by Rome, a full investigation would then be conducted at the local level, with members of diocesan review boards assisting the bishop or archbishop.

To make a report concerning a bishop, archbishop, cardinal or Eastern-rite eparch, people should call the CBAR hotline at 800-276-1562 or visit ReportBishopAbuse.org.

“This is separate and apart from our reporting system having to do with priests, deacons and church personnel,” Deacon McNeil said. Such reports should continue to be made to the archdiocese’s Victim Outreach and Prevention Office at 402-827-3798, ext. 1705, or 888-808-9055.

“And this does not replace the requirement to notify law enforcement,” he said. “As mandatory reporters, if we get a report of sexual abuse of a minor, our first action is that we report that to law enforcement.”