Another priest from the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln has been placed on administrative leave following allegations he had inappropriate sexual contact with an adult woman.
The Rev. Scott Courtney has been relieved of his duties as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Roseland and Assumption Parish north of Roseland, which he began June 18, and fall semester religion instruction of seventh-graders and freshmen at St. Cecilia Middle and High Schools in Hastings pending investigation by law enforcement and the Diocese of Lincoln, a diocesan spokesman said in a statement released Saturday on both the diocesan web page and by email to all diocesan priests, school administrators, faculty, staff, and parents at Hastings Catholic Schools, along with parishioners of Sacred Heart and Assumption.
The allegation does not involve a current or former parishioner of Courtney’s, and no conclusion about his guilt or innocence has been reached, the release said.
The Rev. Thomas Brouillette, chief administrative officer at Hastings Catholic Schools, will assume Courtney’s duties at Sacred Heart and Assumption parishes through what he believes will be June 2019, serving as administrator. He will continue to live in Hastings and retain his role with Hastings Catholic Schools.
Brouillette said Courtney contacted Conley in January 2018 to say he needed help dealing with an inappropriate relationship he recently had had with an adult woman. He was granted a sabbatical.
In August, the woman made allegations of sexual misconduct by Courtney during a meeting with diocesan council and was advised to report the alleged incident to law enforcement officials, which she did.
He subsequently was placed on leave from his roles in parish administration and teaching pending further investigation.
He denies any criminal wrongdoing.
“The thing that’s important to keep in context is that he went to see the bishop,” Brouillette said. “He was struggling with some things, a personal relationship struggle, and wanted to make things right with his neighbor and with God.
“It is important to know that the relationship was not with any current or former parishioner of Father Courtney’s. It doesn’t make it right; it’s just good to know. I’ve been in contact with Father Courtney, and he’s certainly disappointed in himself. He’s also owning his part in this.”
Courtney was ordained a priest in 2000 and was assigned to St. Teresa’s Parish in Lincoln through 2002. He served as assistant pastor at St. Michael’s Parish in Hastings from 2002-05 before returning to Lincoln to serve at North American Martyrs Church.
He was named pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Bellwood and served from 2006-10 before transferring to St. Anthony’s Church in Steinauer from 2010-16, where he assisted in a large-scale church renovation project there. Most recently, he was pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Geneva and St. Mary’s Parish in Shickley from 2016-18.
A radio personality from the early days of Spirit Catholic Radio in 2009, he co-hosted a weekly program, “Live Greater” with Tony Ojeda. He also served as chaplain at Camp Kateri in McCool Junction for several years through 2017.
In an email sent to parents of HCS students, faculty and staff, and parishioners of Sacred Heart and Assumption on Saturday, Brouillette apologized for being the bearer of yet more bad news in the diocese. Courtney becomes the sixth priest in the diocese — all with ties to Tribland parishes — to be accused of improprieties within the last several months and the fifth to be removed from his duties. The other is deceased.
Brouillette also addressed the allegations made against Courtney during weekend Masses at Sacred Heart and Assumption parishes. He later met with parishioners seeking additional information on Courtney’s situation following the Masses. Parents of HCS students also were given the chance to address their concerns during an afternoon meeting on the topic at Centennial Hall Sunday.
“When a priest is placed on leave, the policy is to assign him to a different parish if he is cleared to return to ministry,” Brouillette wrote in his email to parents and parishioners. “This is disheartening news and an experience of the cross of Christ, however, I am grateful Bishop Conley is helping all involved.”
He acknowledged the difficulty of sharing such allegations with school-aged children and offered assistance for those at a loss for words.
“Children, too, deserve the truth, but truth in charity so their faith is not unnecessarily jeopardized,” he said. “I recommend taking this to prayer before speaking about it in order to be more sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Prudence is necessary.”
In a series of written communications posted to the diocesan website since Aug. 4, Conley has offered apologies for not being more transparent in how he handled the now-publicized allegations against priests of the diocese. He encourages anyone with information on sex crimes to report any and all instances to law enforcement.