Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, has apologised for failing to be more transparent about a pastor removed from ministry and sent to treatment last year because the priest had developed “an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol”.
He sent Fr Charles Townsend, pastor of St Peter Parish in Lincoln, to the Shalom Centre in Houston for treatment.
“My failure at the time was the lack of transparency with the people of God about this incident,” Bishop Conley said in an open letter to Catholics of the diocese.
“Despite reports to the contrary, I did not oblige anyone to keep silent about this matter. Our priests and the parishioners of St Peter’s were told that he went away for health reasons. I made no effort to ‘cover up’ any element of this situation, and I tried to address it with integrity,” he wrote.
“However, I did not encourage transparency. I did not encourage an open discussion about this situation with our priests, with parishioners, or with those involved,” he continued. “Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do.”
He added, “Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident. I deeply regret this lack of transparency and breach of trust.”