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Former St. John Priest Center of Sex Abuse Investigation

Mar 24, 2004 | Marietta Times

A former priest at St. John's Catholic Church in Churchtown, who still lives at a Waterford monastery, is the subject of an ongoing sex abuse investigation in Wyoming and last year was disciplined by the Steubenville diocese.

Anthony Jablonowski left St. John's Church in 2002 to devote more time to the Carmelite Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, a religious community he established in Waterford.
Since then, accusations of sex abuse stemming from Jablonowski's time as a priest in Wyoming surfaced, and the Steubenville diocese has ordered Jablonowski to no longer affiliate himself with the group or serve as a priest in any way.

Jablonowski is accused of inappropriate sex acts during the 1980s. He was disciplined by the diocese last year but has not been criminally charged. A prosecutor in the case said this week the investigation continues, however.

The discipline orders from Steubenville Diocese Bishop R. Daniel Conlon directed Jablonowski to no longer engage in public ministry or to identify himself as a priest.

But Jablonowski answered the telephone at the monastery Tuesday, raising the question of whether he is complying with the diocese's order. He denies any wrongdoing.

"I'm still a member (of the Carmelite Missionaries of Mary Immaculate), but I'm not doing anything for it," Jablonowski said Tuesday about the religious community. "If I happen to be here ... and answer the phone, that's just common courtesy."

Church officials in Wyoming disagree. A statement obtained from the Web site of the diocese in Cheyenne, Wyo., said Jablonowski could no longer associate himself with the Carmelite religious community he established in Waterford, located on Strahler Road.

The Rev. Michael Carr, vicar general with the Cheyenne Diocese, said he was surprised Jablonowski is still involved in the community.

"It's my understanding that he's not to be doing that," Carr said. "But that's really a matter for your local diocese."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Steubenville would not directly comment on whether Jablonowski is following through with the bishop's directives.

"I can only say the directives are very clear in the bishop's statement. He's not to identify himself as a priest," said Monsignor Gerald Calovini, director of communications with the Steubenville diocese.

"I presume that the bishop knows he is following the directives, and if he were not, and the bishop had knowledge of that, he would ensure the directives were followed as per his statement," Calovini said.

Jablonowski is accused of engaging in sexual practices mainly with men, but may have also involved minors. The investigation is to determine whether the acts were the result of tricking the victims into thinking they were rituals necessary for religious purposes.

Eric Alden, Platte County prosecutor in Wyoming, said the majority of the alleged acts involve sexual penitential practices between two consenting adults.

Charges could come, Alden said, if it was determined the consent was gained through trickery.

"It seems to me if you tricked somebody into doing something because it is a legitimate religious practice that would render that consent invalid," Alden said.

While Alden said none of the allegations involve minors, a statement on Web sites for both the Diocese of Cheyenne and the Diocese of Steubenville indicate at least some of the acts did.

St. John's parish council President Ken Pottmeyer said Jablonowski left the Churchtown church in 2003 to devote more time to the Carmelite community. He arrived at the church of nearly 700 members in 2000.

"I believe most parishioners felt he was going off to give more time to his community," Pottmeyer said.

Pottmeyer said he was aware of the allegations, but it's not been something discussed among members of the congregation since Jablonowski left.

"It's been pretty quiet," Pottmeyer said. "I really don't think there's been (much discussion) since that original little bit of information."

What little discussion Pottmeyer has heard has been concern for Jablonowski.

"People have the right to know about the moral character of their leaders," Pottmeyer said. "However, there is also concern that some accusations may be invalid rumors aren't good, either."

The Steubenville diocese covers 13 counties in eastern and southern Ohio. Since 1950 there have been 17 sexual abuse claims in the diocese, although no specific names of priests or churches were released earlier this year as part of a national report on sexual abuse by priests.

Previously, the Steubenville diocese acknowledged settling a civil case for $25,000 in 1993 involving the Rev. Carl Peltz, a former associate pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Marietta.

The accusation against Peltz stems from his time on a U.S. Navy base in Iceland before coming to Marietta.

The diocese said in a written statement that it settled the suit to avoid a long and costly trial. Peltz is now serving as a pastor at a church in Michigan.

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