Rev. Donald Cleary is shown here with members of St. Mary's Catholic Church in 1997. Cleary was the parish priest in Wayne from 1986-1998.

Retired priest accused of past sexual abuse in Wayne removed from ministry

According to a press release from the Archdiocese of Omaha, Archbishop George Lucas has permanently removed the Rev. Donald Cleary from public ministry.

Cleary, who was the pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Wayne from 1986-1998 refused to contest an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in Wayne County in the mid-1980s.

The archdiocese received the allegation first from the alleged victim's mother then from the victim themself, in early October. The Archdiocese immediately reported it to the Wayne County Attorney.

Wayne County Attorney, Michael Pieper said that the statute of limitations at the time of the alleged crime required charges to be brought no later than seven years after the victim turned 16 years old.  Because the contact is claimed to have been made in the mid-1980s, that time has expired.

Cleary, 73, had been living at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha since his retirement in 2015. He was celebrating weekday and weekend Masses at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James Parish in Omaha.

According to Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann, St. James and St. Mary's parishes were informed of the allegation at the weekend Masses, as well as parents whose children attend St. James School.

McNeil said the archdiocese has never previously received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Cleary.

Cleary was ordained in 1971. He served as associate pastor and pastor of a number of urban and rural parishes during his 44 years in active ministry.

McNeil emphasized that anyone who has been sexually abused by church personnel should contact law enforcement. Allegations of sexual abuse can also be reported to Mary Beth Hanus, the archdiocese’s manager of victim assistance, at 402-827-3798.

Timeline of events according to the Archdiocese of Omaha:

-Saturday, 10/6/18 and Sunday, 10/7/18, claims received from mother of the victim and then from the victim, detailing abuse that took place in the mid-1980s when victim was a minor.

-Saturday, 10/6/18, Cleary suspended from ministerial duties.

-Monday, 10/8/18, Wayne County Attorney notified.

-Friday, 10/12/18, notification received from Wayne County Attorney that internal, archdiocesan investigation could commence.

-Monday, 10/15/18, internal investigation begins.

-Friday, 10/19/18, meeting with Cleary and counsel where he did not contest the allegations. Cleary was removed from his assignment, restricted from wearing clerical garb and forbidden to reside on parish property.

-Saturday, 10/27/18 and Sunday, 10/28/18, public notifications made to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish (Omaha), St. James Parish (Omaha), St. James/Seton School (Omaha), St. Mary's Parish (Wayne), and to larger community via news release.

The Wayne Herald

Mailing Address:
114 Main Street
Wayne, NE 68787
Phone: 402-375-2600

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