Former Local Priest Accused

By John Lowe
Daily Jeffersonian
November 21, 2007

A priest who served in the Lore City parish more than a decade ago was removed from a parish in Neffs over the weekend after allegations of sexual impropriety involving a minor were conveyed to the Diocese of Steubenville.

Father Gary A. Zalenski, 56, was reassigned from active ministry Saturday by Bishop R. Daniel Conlon.

The church relayed information about the allegation to Guernsey County Prosecutor Dan Padden, who turned it over for investigation to Guernsey County Sheriff Michael McCauley.

McCauley said this morning that he has received no formal complaint from the alleged victim.

The church's action came when, what diocese officials described as a "credible allegation," surfaced that Zalenski sexually assaulted a girl 16 years ago at St. Peter and Paul Parish in Lore City.

Bishop Conlon took the action after the assault allegation was brought to the diocese by a woman who was a young parishioner at the parish in 1991.

Father Zalenski, in an interview broadcast on WTOV-TV, denied that the alleged sexual abuse occurred.

Until Saturday, he was serving as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Neffs.

Meanwhile, an advocacy group for victims of assaults by priests — coincidentally slated to meet in Cambridge Monday night — praised the woman who lodged the allegation.

"We are grateful to the brave victim who reported she had been molested by Father Gary A. Zalenski," said Judy Jones.

Jones is the Steubenville

chapter leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"When victims and witnesses speak up, kids are sometimes protected, healing is always fostered and the truth is sometimes exposed," Jones said.

"We hope that anyone else who saw, suspected or suffered crimes or suspicious behaviors by Father Gary A Zalenski will immediately call law enforcement."

Church officials also urged anyone assaulted as a minor by a priest or other representative of the Diocese of Steubenville to call the diocese at (740) 282-3631 and also an appropriate local law enforcement agency.

In a press release issued by the diocese, church officials said they were angered that a young parishioner may have been violated and embarrassed that the apparent offender was a "brother priest."

While the allegations against Father Zalenski are examined by the church and the courts, he will remain a priest in the diocese. But he will not be permitted to carry out any public functions as a priest.

He will remain a priest until further action can be considered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an office of the Holy See in Rome.

As the allegations against Father Zalenski unfolded, SNAP hosted a support group meeting for priest abuse victims last night at the Crossroads Branch Library in east Cambridge.



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