Lincoln Diocese Reports on ‘Inappropriate Conduct’ of Former Vocations Director

Monsignor Kalin, who died in 2008, was the vocation director for the Diocese of Lincoln and pastor of the University of Nebraska Newman Center from 1970 until the late 1990s.

The Newman Center.
The Newman Center. (photo: Husker Catholic. )

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska today released the results of an independent investigation into alleged misconduct by a deceased longtime vocations director.

The report concluded that Monsignor Leonard Kalin had engaged in inappropriate behavior, including sexual advances toward seminarians and students.

Though the diocese was aware of Msgr. Kalin’s habits such as heavy drinking and gambling, the report did not uncover evidence that diocesan leaders knew of Msgr. Kalin’s sexual impropriety before 1998, the year some restrictions were placed on Kalin’s ministry.

“Despite Msgr. Kalin’s many positive contributions to build a faithful community at the Newman Center, the investigation findings regarding his wrong and inappropriate conduct are disturbing and painful,” reads an April 29 letter from Archbishop George Lucas, the diocesan apostolic administrator.

“The exercise of power and authority that leads the faithful to act in a sinful way never should be tolerated. For the harm that has been done, I offer a sincere apology on behalf of the diocese.”

Monsignor Kalin, who died in 2008, was the vocation director for the Diocese of Lincoln and pastor of the University of Nebraska Newman Center from 1970 until the late 1990s.

In August 2018, Peter Mitchell, a former Lincoln priest, publicly accused Kalin of “modeling addictive behaviors” to young people through habits such as heavy drinking, chain smoking, and gambling, as well as making sexual advances toward seminarians and promoting a “homosexual culture” at the Newman Center.

Mitchell, who is now laicized, also alleged in an August 2018 essay in The American Conservative that he had, at one point during his time as a seminarian, complained to the then-bishop of Lincoln about Kalin’s conduct and had received no reply. Mitchell was a seminarian for the diocese from 1994 to 1999. 

Lincoln Bishop James Conley— who is now on medical leave from the diocese— opened a formal investigation into Msgr. Kalin’s conduct in March 2019. The diocese added Kalin’s name to its list of credibly accused clergy in April 2019.

While some Catholics have said the diocese should have made public decades ago that allegations of impropriety were made against Kalin, a frequently revered figure in the area, the report did not address that question.

The investigation concluded that the Diocese of Lincoln’s chancery leadership was aware of the “culture of socializing, and alcohol and cigarette use at the Newman Center.” It also described Kalin’s leadership style as “demanding and authoritarian.”

The investigation also concluded that Monsignor Kalin did “on occasion make sexual advances against some college students and seminarians.”

However, the investigation did not find evidence that chancery leadership “knew of sexual impropriety” by Kalin until 1998, according to the investigative report.

When Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz learned of allegations of sexual misconduct in July 1998, Kalin was “put on restrictions and moved out of the Newman Center.” After he was told about “a sexual issue involving Msgr. Kalin and a seminarian,” Bishop Bruskewitz ordered that two people were to be with Kalin when assisting him, the investigation said.

In September 1998, a lay person of the Lincoln diocese told a priest that Kalin kissed him inappropriately; the priest subsequently confronted Kalin, who admitted it happened, according to the investigation.

The next month, Bruskewitz issued a canonical warning forbidding Monsignor Kalin from being alone with any man under the age of 40 except for priests, close relatives and medical personnel.

An August 2018 statement from the diocese said it had “addressed these allegations of misconduct directly with Msgr. Kalin during his time in priestly ministry.”

Mitchell wrote that Msgr. Kalin would regularly ask seminarians to help him shower, giving the excuse that he was old and needed help, and would then make sexual advances toward them.

He also said Msgr. 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.

Mitchell indicated that he avoided showering with Msgr. Kalin, drinking with him alone late at night, or accompanying him to Las Vegas.

“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 investigator stated that all interviewees were asked whether they had any information or had observed a homosexual culture at the Newman Center or the Diocese of Lincoln, and all stated that they had never observed such a culture.

Though the investigator was unable to conclude whether Msgr. Kalin was actively engaged in homosexual activity, “there was sufficient testimonial and anecdotical information learned during the investigation to confirm Msgr. Kalin did seek out and prefer the company of men.”

Archbishop Lucas in his letter noted that since the diocese promulgated new safe environment policies in April 2019, it also has convened a “Ministerial Conduct Board” whose job is to evaluate claims of inappropriate priest conduct that do not pertain to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.