Wyo. Ex-Priest's Case Uncovers Lurid Tales
By Ann Depperschmidt
April 18, 2004
A former Wyoming priest has been sentenced to prison for molesting a teenage boy, a crime that has caught many in a small southeastern Wyoming town by surprise and has led to even more bizarre tales.
Anthony Jablonowski, 69, was sentenced Thursday to between 15 months and seven years in jail for molesting a 17-year-old about 20 years ago.
The former priest pleaded no contest in order to avoid prosecution after authorities say he led ritual beatings and torture sessions during that same time in the basement of St. Anthony Catholic Church. St. Anthony is the only Catholic church in Guernsey, a town of about 1,200 on the wind-swept plains 90 miles north of Cheyenne.
'I didn't even realize there was a basement there until one day somebody said there was one,' said Suzy Briggs, one of the owners of Bunkhouse Motel, across the street from St. Anthony.
There had been some unusual activity around the church in recent days, with people locking and unlocking the doors, Briggs said.
'It was a weird case,' said Platte County prosecutor Eric Alden.
During the investigation, authorities learned of Jablonowski's involvement in sacred rituals and penance prayers. Alden said Jablonowski would take men to the basement of the church and ask them to strip naked, gag and blindfold each other before beginning the ritual.
The men said they would be hung 'upside down from the ceiling, have their genitals manipulated to induce extreme pain - all while praying,' Alden said.
'It was bizarre,' he said.
Jablonowski's attorney, Dallas Laird, said the priest did not admit to the rituals. He can't talk about what goes on in prayer and confession because he took an oath of confidentiality, Laird said Saturday.
'Rather than breach these oaths that he has made to God and the church, he'd rather accept the plea bargain,' Laird said.
The practice is absolutely not condoned by the Catholic Church, said the Rev. Michael Carr, vicar general of the Diocese of Cheyenne.
Jablonowski served as a pastor in Wyoming for about 10 years, Carr said.
He left Wyoming in 1991 because he wanted to start a new order, Carr said, which was something the Diocese of Cheyenne was not interested in. He became a priest of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, and started his new order of men called the Carmelite Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, Carr said.
Carr said the recent national publicity that has surrounded the Catholic Church regarding molestation charges may have encouraged those who did come forward to do so.
Last year, about a half-dozen people told the church what happened in the basement. The church put out a notice in its register, urging people to come forward if the priest had harmed anyone.
That was when a concerned mother told her son about the notice. Years before, her son told her about a sexual encounter with Jablonowski, Alden said.
The now 37-year-old man, who has since moved away, told church officials he was molested by Jablonowski.
The problem with trying to prosecute the rituals is that all people involved in the sessions were consenting male adults at the time, Alden said. They believed they were participating in legitimate, sacred rituals, he said, noting that he thought the men were all heterosexuals.
In order for Jablonowski to be charged for that, the prosecution would have to prove he tricked them into a sexual act, Alden said.
The defense said the activities were not sexual and were tied to a legitimate practice, Laird said.
'Two words the priest used to describe it was penitential prayer and redemptive suffering,' Alden said.
Carr remembered Jablonowski as being well-respected and charismatic. And not everyone who participated in the rituals thought they were wrong, Alden said. Some people told the prosecutor that Jablonowski was a good man.
Jablonowski's priestly faculties were revoked after the Wyoming allegations surfaced.
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