And the winner of today’s Heartless Prelate Award…
Bishop Elden Curtiss! This one’s so un-freakin’-believable I reproduce the article here in full:
BY DAVID HENDEE
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
NORFOLK, Neb. – Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss could be charged with witness tampering after a conversation with a Catholic school kindergarten teacher, Madison County Attorney Joe Smith said Thursday.
After meeting teacher Linda Hammond and learning that she was responsible for alerting authorities to a priest who allegedly viewed child pornography on a computer, Curtiss reportedly told her that she should resign.
“I remember … walking down Madison Avenue and thinking this didn’t go the way I thought it would,” Hammond said.
Smith said he is awaiting additional police reports before he decides whether to file charges.
“It’s premature to say he’ll be charged,” Smith said of Curtiss. “The incident occurred. The police had an obligation to investigate. I have an obligation to look into it.”
Curtiss and the Rev. Michael Gutgsell, archdiocesan spokesman, did not return calls Thursday.
The incident took place nine days ago after Curtiss celebrated a morning Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norfolk for students at Sacred Heart School.
Hammond said she introduced herself to Curtiss near the sanctuary. He did not recognize her name until she told him, “I was the one who went to the police about Father Allgaier.”
The Rev. Robert Allgaier is a former Norfolk priest who faces trial in June on a misdemeanor count of attempted possession of child pornography.
Hammond said Curtiss replied: “I’m sorry you did this. You shouldn’t have done this. We had it handled. You ruined a man’s life.”
She said Curtiss told her that Allgaier probably would never serve as a priest again and added, “I’d appreciate it if you’d resign.”
Hammond said she told Curtiss that she didn’t appreciate the way he was talking to her. Curtiss told her to resign as least one more time during the few minutes they talked. There were two adult witnesses, Hammond said.
Hammond said she told Curtiss that she alerted police last October because of her concern for the safety of children. Curtiss did not respond to that comment, she said.
Hammond alerted authorities that two former Sacred Heart students had found evidence in January 2001 that indicated Allgaier viewed child pornography on a church computer. Court records said Allgaier admitted to Curtiss in February 2001 that he had viewed child pornography up to four times a week, for several hours each time.
Curtiss removed Allgaier from his teaching duties at Norfolk Catholic High School and ordered him to abstain from contact with children outside worship services. The church had Allgaier evaluated by a psychologist, and the priest entered counseling.
In June, Curtiss transferred Allgaier to St. Gerald’s Catholic Church in Ralston, where the priest’s duties included teaching religion at St. Joan of Arc-St. Gerald Middle School in Omaha. He remained at the Ralston parish until he was arrested in February and charged.
Smith said a charge of witness tampering requires the prosecution to show that the purpose of Curtiss’ remarks were to dissuade Hammond from testifying at Allgaier’s trial.
“It may or may not be that,” Smith said. “The resolution may not be in the context of a criminal proceeding. Not all conduct that is upsetting is criminal in nature.”
Smith has criticized the archbishop for not coming forward with the evidence against Allgaier. He said Curtiss knew for eight months that Allgaier had viewed pornography before Hammond came forward.
“If it hadn’t been for Linda Hammond, the people of the Norfolk parish would not have known, the people of St. Gerald’s parish would not have known and the police would not have known” about Allgaier, Smith said. “Any evidence we have is the result of her exemplary citizenship.”
World-Herald staff writer Julia McCord contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Associated Press.
Who was it that decided putting somebody in the stocks and pelting them with mud was cruel and unusual punishment? If you live in the diocese of Omaha, why not think about tithing to, oh, almost anything besides the diocesan appeal?
Oh, and if you’d like to (hint hint) email the chancery of Omaha and let them know your feelings about the good bishop’s pastoral skills and integrity (and the worth of these compared to the honesty and courage of Linda Hammond) the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Let’s see if the good bishop can tell all of us to shut up.