Group Urges Bishop to Reach out to Victims

By Bill Luckett
Casper Star-Tribune
June 16, 2004

CHEYENNE -- Three people saying they have been molested by clergy called on Wyoming Catholic Bishop David Ricken on Tuesday to take proactive steps to help assure that the state's churches are safe places for children.

Paula Glover, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Cheyenne, responded that Ricken has already taken several steps along the lines of what the three asked, including meeting with victims of the Rev. Anthony Jablonowski.

Jablonowski pleaded no contest in April to taking indecent liberties with a teenager almost 20 years ago after allegations surfaced that he held secret rituals in which male parishioners were stripped, strung upside down and flogged in the basement of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Guernsey. He was sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but could get out in one year with good behavior.

People attending a press conference Tuesday in front of the Catholic Church's state headquarters here included Peter Isely and Mary Grant, who are board members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and John Brourink, a Presbyterian member of SNAP who says he was abused by his former minister.

They chose to hold their press conference at the Catholic Church because of Jablonowski's recent conviction and because Catholic bishops are meeting in Denver to discuss sexual abuse. But they stressed that the problem isn't confined to a single religion.

They called on Ricken specifically to personally visit parishes that Jablonowski visited and worked at and to make apologies. They also want the bishop to publicly urge other victims or witnesses to contact law enforcement and get help.

Glover could not say specifically whether Ricken has apologized or intends to, and Ricken was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

But, she said, Ricken visited Guernsey days after Jablonowski's conviction to hold a healing service, which she described as a significant and important event.

Ricken has personally met with the victims who have requested meetings with him, Glover said, but he has not publicized that fact like some bishops across the nation have.

The church has urged its members to report sexual misconduct by clergy, and the Wyoming Catholic Register even prints a reporting form two or three times a year, she said.

The SNAP members said Brourink is a living example of sexual abuse committed by a Presbyterian minister, who is now dead.

Brourink said he was groomed from age 15 by a well-known man in his Cheyenne church for future sexual abuse, and the man raped him after he became an adult. Then he turned to his minister for counsel and support.

"The minister of the church sexually assaulted me 10 days after I had been raped," Brourink said.

He said his church at the state and national level sided with his local church, and then he reported the incidents to police, who were unhelpful.

"When I tried 10 years ago, the Cheyenne police would not listen to me," he said, and now the perpetrator is dead.

Grant said Brourink's story is very common for victims of molestation by clergy, and that kind of treatment can make it difficult for victims to report abuse.

"We want the victims to know that they're not alone," Grant said. "We, too, were abused by priests."

She urged any victims of abuse by clergy members to come forward in order to better ensure that churches are safe places for children.

Isely said abuse itself is traumatic, but the aftermath can be even more so.

Still, he said, although it is difficult, it is worse for abuse victims to remain silent than it is for them to come forward and report their experiences to the proper authorities.


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