Local Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse
Father Richard Szafranski Relieved of His Duties

By Cathy Shafran
April 8, 2006

ZILWAUKEE (WJRT) - (04/08/06)-- There are tears of shock and disappointment tonight as members of a Zilwaukee Catholic Parish learn their trusted priest is being investigated for sexual misconduct.

The news was told to parishioners at St. Matthews Parish tonight during a Palm Sunday Mass.

It was the Bishop of the Saginaw Diocese who shared with parishioners today news that their pastor, Father Richard Szafranski, had been put on administrative leave while charges of sexual transgression against him were investigated.

It was difficult news for all.

"I'm so angry with him, it's not even funny. I've heard rumors. I'm angry, I'm just so angry and hurt because he betrayed us. I feel he betrayed us...this is not the way our priests are supposed to be," said Helen Rewley.

Shock, tears, frustration, disappointment, confusion. Those emotions filled St. Matthews Church in Zilwaukee as the Bishop of the Saginaw Diocese shared with them news of their priest's investigation.

"There's an allegation of sexual abuse of a woman about 30 years ago...(the victim's age was) 16, 17, 18, somewhere in there," Bishop Carlson said.

There were no details on where the alleged abuse occurred.

Bishop Carlson says Father Szafranski began his career as an associate pastor at St. Stephens in Saginaw about 31 years ago and has served at several mid-Michigan parishes since then.

The matter has now been turned over to the civil authorities and, according to the bishop, the Diocese will also investigate the matter.

In the meantime, an interim pastor will be appointed to the parish while Szafranski is on administrative leave.

During this time of Holy Week, Bishop Carlson says there will be many prayers. "Pray for the victim, obviously. We pray for her family, we pray for the congregation, we pray for Father Rich, we pray for our society that we've finally reached a time when the sin of sexual abuse doesn't exist any more."

Bishop Carlson is expected to address the issue also at a press conference Monday morning.


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