Diocese of Lincoln admits misconduct by influential former vocations director
LINCOLN, Nebraska, August 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, has acknowledged reports of misconduct by its deceased former vocations director, after an op-ed published by a former priest alleged the sexual behavior and other scandal involving the director.
The diocese did not address the allegations from Peter Mitchell, posted August 1 at Rod Dreher’s blog on The American Conservative, but said in a statement that the diocese “is aware of past reports of conduct contrary to prudence and moral law by Monsignor Leonard Kalin, deceased in 2008.”
“The diocese addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Msgr. Kalin during his time in priestly ministry,” the statement said. The diocese added that is not aware that Kalin had broken any civil laws.
“The Diocese of Lincoln is also aware of past reports of conduct contrary to prudence and moral law by former Diocese of Lincoln priest Peter Mitchell,” the statement said further. “The diocese addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Mitchell during his time of ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln.”
Mitchell was a seminarian in the Lincoln diocese from 1994 to 1999, and eventually transferred to Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was laicized in 2017 for breaking his vow of celibacy on multiple occasions.
In his article Mitchell described how he’d been drawn to Lincoln like many other seminarians because of its reputation for maintaining orthodoxy and traditionalism amid the Church’s modernist tilt in recent decades.
But he said what he found there was abusive authority in Kalin, a gambling and alcohol-fueled environment for the seminarians, and himself a fish out of water as a heterosexual.
Upon arrival Mitchell said he was introduced to Kalin, vocations director for Lincoln and pastor of the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska from 1970-1998, during the tenure of two bishops with strong reputations for orthodoxy (the late Glennon Flavin, 1967-1992, and Fabian Bruskewitz, 1992-2002).
Kalin, who had also been on the advisory board for the diocese’s St. Gregory the Great Seminary, had an orthodox reputation as well, and shared credit for the Lincoln diocese’s substantial vocations numbers.
But according to Mitchell, Kalin took park in sexual immorality and modeled addictive behaviors for the Lincoln seminarians and students at the Newman Center.
Detailing various scenarios orchestrated by Kalin allowing for advances to be made on seminarians, including among other things, helping him shower or accompanying him on trips to Las Vegas, Mitchell said that declining Kalin’s invitations would net a seminarian poor treatment.
Mitchell reported that another seminarian questioned his loyalty to Kalin after Mitchell had complained about the situation to the bishop at the time, also saying that he did not get a response to his grievance from the bishop.
Catholic News Agency (CNA) covered the August 1 statement from the Diocese of Lincoln. JD Flynn, editor-in-chief for CNA is the former communications director for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn posted on Twitter Wednesday morning that he was recusing himself from CNA’s coverage of Mitchell’s allegations.
Lincoln Bishop James Conley acknowledged Mitchell’s allegations in his August 3 column.
Both Conley and the diocese via its statement invited anyone with information or concerns about past or current sexual immorality in any diocesan-related body to contact the diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, and in cases that may be criminal, for them to reach out to a national abuse hotline or law enforcement.
Cast against the backdrop of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick - the subject of recently exposed reports of years of predatory sexual behavior toward young boys, seminarians and priests - Mitchell presented his experience with Kalin as indicative of the larger problem of homosexuality in the Catholic clergy and related power networks in the Church.
“I experienced profound discrimination as a seminarian and later as a priest because I was a heterosexual in an overwhelmingly homosexual environment where sexually active gay priests protected and promoted each other,” Mitchell wrote. “The experience of this homosexual atmosphere – at times overt, at times closeted – is felt across the board by heterosexual priests I know in numerous different dioceses and religious orders.”
“It is ‘everywhere’ within the Catholic clergy,” he continued, “but seems to be especially prevalent among priests within the power structure of chanceries, seminaries, and the church’s bureaucracy, up to and including the Holy See, where I served for a brief time in 2008-2009.”
Mitchell drew a clear parallel between the McCarrick scandal and his experience in Lincoln with Kalin – including the reported pay for play power network where those who went along were promoted and those who didn’t living in fear of retaliation should they speak up.
“I know so many good, generous men who serve as priests there and elsewhere who live in fear of church authority and who remain silent about Kalin’s abuse because they know that Kalin’s protégés and protectors hold the reins of ecclesiastical power,” he said. “The power of Kalin’s “friends” exactly mirrors that of McCarrick’s ‘friends.’”
“The difference of course is that McCarrick rose in the Church to the level of cardinal,” Mitchell added. “But within their own ‘kingdoms’ each of these men rewarded those who complied with their wishes. This power structure remains intact. How many other McCarricks and Kalins are there in how many other dioceses and religious orders in the United States?”
Subsequently on Wednesday Dreher published a post with feedback on Mitchell’s op-ed.
Some respondents disputed Mitchell’s account of Kalin and the environment for seminarians in the Diocese of Lincoln at the time, a few in significant detail.
Moral theologian Professor Janet Smith had posted the article on her Facebook page testifying to Mitchell’s character, having had him as a student at the University of Dallas.
“Few things in this whole mess have saddened me more than this testimony,” Smith wrote. “He didn’t need to write this. God bless him!”
A priest commenting on Smith’s post, Father Timothy Ferguson, reported experiencing the gambling and alcohol-heavy party environment that Mitchell described at Lincoln while Ferguson himself was visiting there as a prospective seminarian. After expressing his concerns about this to Kalin, he said, Kalin informed Ferguson later that day that he didn’t think Ferguson was traditional enough for the diocese of Lincoln.
Mitchell took responsibility for his own failings in his article and expressed regret.
“My own life as a priest was undoubtedly affected by the totally inadequate and abusive formation I received in terms of preparing me for a healthy life as a celibate heterosexual male,” he wrote. “I lived an unhealthy life as a priest, and I hurt people. I never intended to become such a person, but I did. What I did was wrong. I deeply regret having hurt people who looked up to me as a spiritual leader, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
He added, however, that “the people to whom my seminary formation was entrusted modeled addictive behavior to me and an entire generation of young men who are now priests.”
Mitchell noted that this culture of fear, shame and secrecy exists within the “traditional” Church just as much as it does in the “progressive” Church, and “must be exposed and broken if the Church is to truly move forward.”
He said that his motive in voicing his experience was to help the Church heal by hopefully paving the way for others - especially other priests – to find the courage and freedom to speak up as well.
In another later update from Thursday Dreher mentioned that some had said he and Mitchell should apologize for impugning Kalin’s character with groundless claims, but he noted that Conley and the diocese have acknowledged Kalin was not above reproach. He said that multiple people with personal experience have told him that toward the end of Kalin’s life the diocese required students who were going to visit him do so in pairs, not alone, and that no explanation was given for this at the time.
Dreher noted, having covered abuse cases for some time, that it is possible for some people close to a situation to have no idea what’s occurring.
His post then detailed several accounts since brought to his attention corroborating Mitchell’s account of sexual corruption, homosexuality within the clergy, and a priest who reported abusive behavior toward an altar boy being forced to serve under the pastor he reported and ordered into silence about the matter - the pastor a protege of Kalin’s.
Mitchell has been back in touch with Dreher during the fallout from his article to point out that good priests who have done nothing wrong also suffer in the abuse crisis when they are forced to be silent about clerical wrongdoing.
“What Kalin did is not about me having ‘sour grapes’ against a man who is long-deceased,” he told Dreher. “This is about young men and young priests RIGHT NOW who are being abused. I REFUSE TO BE SILENT ABOUT ABUSE THAT IS OCCURRING AS WE SPEAK. That is why I have spoken.”