LINCOLN, Neb. — The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, acknowledged reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a deceased former vocations director, following an article by a former priest alleging misconduct and scandal on the part of the director.
In an Aug. 1 statement, the Diocese of Lincoln said that it “is aware of past reports of conduct contrary to prudence and moral law by Msgr. 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, adding that the diocese is not aware that Kalin violated 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 diocese addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Mitchell during his time of ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln.”
In its statement, the diocese emphasized that it “reports all alleged violations of civil law to the proper authorities and is committed to addressing all violations of prudence, morality or civil law by its clergy, employees and volunteers at the time they are reported.”
The statement came in response to an Aug. 1 article in The American Conservative by Peter Mitchell, a former priest who had attended seminary in the Diocese of Lincoln. Mitchell was laicized in 2017 after violating his vow of celibacy on multiple occasions.
Mitchell’s article discusses Msgr. Kalin, who was the vocations director for the Diocese of Lincoln and pastor of the University of Nebraska Newman Center from 1970 until the late 1990s.
While Kalin was well-respected for his orthodoxy and attracting vocations, Mitchell said, he led a life of sexual immorality and set a poor example for the seminarians he oversaw.
Mitchell said Kalin would regularly ask seminarians to help him shower, giving the excuse that he was old and needed help, and he would then make sexual advances toward them.
He also said Kalin would invite seminarians on trips to Las Vegas and would require them to meet with him late at night at the Newman Center before inviting them to his private quarters for a drink.
Those who declined such invitations were subject to inferior treatment, he said. On one occasion, he said that he was questioned by another seminarian about his loyalty to Kalin after he had complained to the then-bishop of Lincoln. He said he did not receive a response from the bishop.
“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 said.
Mitchell indicated that he avoided showering with Kalin, drinking with him alone late at night or accompanying him to Las Vegas. Catholic News Agency contacted Mitchell to request additional detail about his knowledge of Kalin’s alleged sexual advances. Mitchell did not respond before deadline.
In his article, he said that his “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 acknowledged his own violations of celibacy, which he said he regrets.
“I am painfully aware, 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,” he said.
Mitchell warned that Kalin’s behavior has had lasting effects on the diocese.
“Although Kalin passed away in 2008, the seminarians he favored became the priests who continue to hold the reins of ecclesiastical power. To this day, anyone who tries to speak critically of Kalin’s behavior and legacy is met with a code of silence for ‘the good of the Church.’ If I ever tried to express frustration with Monsignor’s treatment of me, priests in positions of power over me quickly shut me down, almost robotically: ‘While he may have had a few flaws, he was very orthodox and recruited so many vocations.’”
He said that he believes priests currently in the diocese had bad experiences with Kalin, or knew about the misconduct, but are afraid to speak up due to fear of reprisal.
“Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for active priests to speak out because the men they would be speaking out against control every aspect of their lives and their reputations,” he said. “But it needs to happen for their own good and for the good of the Church.”
The Diocese of Lincoln stressed that it “endeavors to maintain a culture of holiness, chastity, integrity and Christlike joy among our seminarians and priests. We are also committed to maintaining the high standards of chaste behavior to which the Lord calls us.”
In its statement, the diocese asked “any priest, religious, seminarian or lay Catholic with any information or concerns about past or current misconduct in a parish, school or apostolate of the diocese to contact the diocesan chancery or, if criminal behavior is suspected, any law enforcement agency.”
Current Bishop of Lincoln James Conley acknowledged Mitchell’s article in his Aug. 3 column for the Southern Nebraska Register.
Discussing the accusations against both Kalin and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was removed from the College of Cardinals last weekend, Bishop Conley stressed that Christ walks alongside the wounded in their pain and anger.
“Because sexuality is such a powerful gift, I believe that the evil one — Satan — tempts us to sin against chastity, and to misuse and abuse our sexuality, because doing so can cause great harm to the Lord’s beloved children,” he said.
Bishop Conley apologized on behalf of the Church to those who had been harmed by its members and leaders. He asked Catholics to pray for victims of sexual abuse and misconduct.
He said, “Christ promises new life. May he renew his Church and renew the hearts of those who are suffering.”
Editor's Note: J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency,
previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley
and director of communications for the Lincoln Diocese.
Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict of interest.
He was not involved in the assigning, reporting, editing or oversight of this story.