Church Investigation: Priests Guilty Of Sexually Abusing Minors

Two Archdiocese of Omaha priests received their ecclesiastical penalties on Friday after having been found guilty of sexual abuse of minors.

No criminal charges will be filed as the statute of limitations has run out.

The Rev. Alfred Salanitro (pictured right) has been dismissed from the clerical state, meaning he has been returned to the lay state or “laicized.” The 54-year-old is prohibited from all priestly functions and ministries and can never again serve as a priest anywhere in the church.

In December 2011, a Carter Lake man reported he was sexually abused by Salanitro from 1991-1994, beginning when he was 11 years old while Salanitro was associate pastor of Holy Cross Parish.

The archdiocese notified law enforcement of the allegation. Archbishop George Lucas placed Salanitro on administrative leave from his assignment as pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue pending the outcome of a preliminary investigation.

Archbishop Lucas and the Archdiocesan Review Board, an 11-member volunteer board of child care experts, law enforcement officials, attorneys, clergy, and mental health professionals that advises Archbishop Lucas on the protection of young people, concluded after a thorough investigation that the evidence met the church’s minimum standard for a credible allegation.

The investigation also identified two additional adult males who claimed they were also sexually abused by Salanitro when they were teenagers. The archdiocese reported the allegations to law enforcement officials.

Salanitro’s case was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The CDF has sole competence in resolving allegations of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics. The CDF exercises its authority once a case is referred to it by the local bishop.

After reviewing the findings of the archdiocese’s investigation, the CDF authorized Archbishop Lucas to resolve the matter through an administrative penal process. The administrative penal process consists of two assessors who are experts in canon law assisting Archbishop Lucas in determining Salanitro’s innocence or guilt, providing Salanitro the opportunity to review the evidence and assuring Salanitro exercises his right to defend himself.

After reviewing the evidence, studying the defense brief submitted by Salanitro’s canon lawyer and hearing the opinions of the two assessors, Archbishop Lucas determined Salanitro was guilty of sexual abuse of a minor. The CDF then gave Archbishop Lucas the mandate to dismiss Salanitro from the priesthood.

The archdiocese also announced the Rev. Franklin Dvorak was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance that prohibits him from publicly exercising priestly ministry in the church. He is not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the church’s sacraments.

The 69-year-old Dvorak has been instructed not to wear clerical attire or to present himself publicly as a priest. Dvorak is expected to dedicate his life to praying for victims and repenting of his past offenses. Dvorak is able to retain his clerical status. He was ordained in 1970 and will reach the priest retirement age of 70 in February. His term as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha expired last summer.

In April 2012, the archdiocese received an allegation that Dvorak sexually abused a female student from 1970-1972 when he was a priest in Norfolk, Nebraska. The archdiocese reported the allegation to law enforcement. Archbishop Lucas placed Dvorak on administrative leave pending the outcome of a formal inquiry into the allegation.