Milwaukee Priest Removed from Ministry
Abuse Incidents Going Back 20 Years Alleged

By Tom Held
Journal Sentinel Online
Auguast 24, 2002

The pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Milwaukee has been removed from active ministry for "substantiated allegations" of sexual abuse involving a minor that occurred more than 20 years ago, church officials announced Saturday.

Father James Jablonowski is the first priest removed from the ministry following a review of sexual abuse allegations by independent investigator John Fiorenza, a former Milwaukee County judge.

Fiorenza investigated two separate allegations against Jablonowski after the complaints were reviewed by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee said that Fiorenza has been retained when the district attorney's office does not pursue cases.

Jablonowski brings to seven the number of priests dismissed as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee works to comply with a zero-tolerance sexual-abuse policy adopted by U.S. bishops in June.

Members of the Blessed Sacrament, 3100 S. 41st St., were told about Jablonowski during a late Saturday afternoon Mass.

"I kind of suspected something like this," parishioner Raymond Busch said Saturday night in his backyard as he smoked a cigar a half-block from the church.

Jablonowski had abruptly left the parish in July, prompting church members to wonder what had happened. Jablonowski had been at Blessed Sacrament for about three years and formerly served at St. Hedwig's Church, 1716 N. Humboldt Ave.

Blessed Sacrament also operates a school, covering 4-year-old kindergarten to eighth grade, with an enrollment of 224 students, according to the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

Father Robert D. Turner, the associate pastor, briefed about 300 members of the congregation, many of them elderly, who attended the 4:30 p.m. Mass, Busch said.

The congregation listened silently, and there was little public discussion after parishioners filed out of the church, Busch said.

"He was good at his job," Busch, a member of the parish since 1955, said of Jablonowski. "He gave good sermons. These things happen. But still it is a surprise."

On Wednesday, two priests with histories of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors were removed from parishes in Beaver Dam and Fond du Lac. That came just days after a Whitewater pastor told his congregation that he was being relieved of his priestly ministry because of "inappropriate behavior" with a 17-year-old boy nearly two decades ago.

The zero-tolerance policy, which takes effect Monday, prohibits any priest "with a substantiated incident of sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual contact with a minor" to serve in active ministry in the archdiocese.

Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said church authorities received the two complaints against Jablonowski on May 16 and 21. The complaints were referred to the district attorney, and Jablonowski was placed on temporary leave on July 18.

After discussing Jablonowski's case with the archdiocesan College of Consultors, Bishop Richard J. Sklba asked the priest to leave the active ministry on Wednesday.

Turner will continue as temporary administrator of the parish, a role he has filled since July 25, according to the statement issued by Topczewski.

The statement did not include any other details of the allegations against Jablonowski.

The policy adopted in Dallas two months ago by members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is voluntary until it is approved by the Vatican.

Some dioceses have been slow to implement it, and recent news reports indicate that the Vatican, concerned about priests' rights, may not accept all of its provisions.

Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.


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