Omaha priest accused of sexually abusing minor in mid-1980s

A retired priest who had been celebrating Masses at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James parishes in Omaha has been permanently removed from public ministry after declining to contest an allegation that he sexually abused a boy in the mid-1980s, the Archdiocese of Omaha said.

The archdiocese received the allegation against Father Donald Cleary in early October and reported it to the Wayne County attorney. Father Cleary was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Wayne from 1986 to 1998. No charges are expected because the statute of limitations has expired.

The archdiocese had never previously received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Father Cleary, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor.

Members of St. Elizabeth Ann, where Father Cleary, 73, had been living in the rectory since he retired in 2015, as well as St. James and St. Mary parishes were informed of the allegation at weekend Masses. Parents whose children attend St. James School also were told, Deacon McNeil said. Father Cleary is now living with family.

An Atkinson native ordained in 1971, Father Cleary served as associate pastor or pastor of several urban and rural parishes during his 44 years in active ministry. They included associate pastor of Holy Cross from 1971-75, Christ the King from 1975-78, and St. Peter in 1978, all in Omaha. He was director of campus ministry and co-coordinator of religious programs at the former Paul VI High School, also in Omaha, and in residence at nearby then-St. Patrick Parish, from 1978-79.

 In addition to his service in Wayne, he served as associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in O’Neill from 1979-82. He was pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce and St. Joseph in Constance from 1982-86 and St. Peter in Fullerton and St. Peter in Clarks from 1998-2006. He retired after serving nine years as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in North Bend and St. Leo Parish in Snyder.

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