Canton Repository [Canton OH]
November 15, 2021
By Charita M. Goshay
A Catholic Diocese of Youngstown priest has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of allegations involving a minor.
The Rev. Marian Babjak serves as pastor of Christ Our Savior Catholic Church in Struthers. He previously served at St. Paul Catholic Parish in North Canton.
Babjak was parochial vicar and associate pastor at St. Paul starting in 2017, where he served until 2020 when he was appointed to Christ Our Savior parish in Struthers.
A native of Slovakia, Babjak grew up in communist Czechoslovakia.
The case has been referred to Mahoning County Children’s Services.
Youngstown diocese releases statement
Over the weekend, Bishop David Bonnar issued a statement that was read to the parish in Struthers. The statement said the diocese received an allegation on Nov. 10 of “inappropriate physical contact with a minor.” Babjak was immediately placed on leave.
“During this leave, Fr. Babjak remains a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown with restricted faculties which prohibit him from celebrating the sacraments publicly, wearing clerical attire or presenting himself as a priest in good standing,” the statement said. “The placement on administrative leave does not presume guilt as the purpose of this leave is to conduct a thorough and objective investigation.
“Fr. Babjak’s right to a good reputation will be maintained throughout this process. Please pray for the accuser and Father Babjak during this difficult time.”
The statement also urged that anyone who has been a victim of misconduct by a clergy member or church employee contact Domenic Colucy, victims’ assistance coordinator at 330-744-8451 extension 293 or call 330-718-1388.
Citing the ongoing nature of the investigation, Justin Huyck, the diocesan coordinator of media relations, declined to comment when asked if there had been any allegations involving St. Paul but encouraged victims of abuse by clergy or employees of the church to report any allegations to either the victims’ assistance coordinator who has a confidential line or to local authorities.
“Because this is an ongoing and independent investigation, I cannot comment on the specifics of the allegation at this time,” he said. “The diocese referred the allegation to Mahoning County Children Services in adherence to our diocesan policy, policies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and state law. These policies were developed in consultation with local prosecutors. In addition, following our policies, the diocese is contracting for an outside, independent investigator.”
Judy Block Jones, midwest associate of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in a statement urged the diocese to change how it handles such accusations. SNAP has been a longtime critic of how churches and other organizations handle abuse complaints.
“While the diocese encourages anyone who has been a victim of misconduct by a clergy member or church employee to contact its victims’ assistance coordinator, we believe the best method of reporting such incidents is to contact law enforcement directly,” Jones said. “Secular investigations are the way to deal with clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic church, which has been going on unabated for decades.”
The group also said it would be more helpful to the public if the church would state an accused priest’s previous work assignments.
“This affirmative action would alert parishioners and the public,” Jones said. “We know from statistics that those who harm children seldom have just one victim.”
For details about diocesan policy and procedures visit https://doy.org/safe-environment/
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com