SNAP responds to Catholic Diocese abuse allegations

WFMJ-NBC/CW-21 [Youngstown OH]

November 15, 2021

By Zach Mosca

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has responded to allegations against a Catholic Diocese of Youngstown priest currently on administrative leave after allegations of “inappropriate physical contact with a minor.”

The statement sent by SNAP founder, Judy Jones, issued a news release claiming that the Diocese should have contacted law enforcement directly regarding the incident , incorrectly implying that the matter was not also reported to an outside public agency. 

The Diocese reported the matter to the Mahoning County Children Services agency, in addition to its own victim assistance coordinator. 

“Secular investigations are the way to deal with clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, which has been going on unabated for decades. More importantly, such reports are more likely to reach the public, which helps survivors heal and empowers victims, many of whom are still sitting in silence, to come forward,” the statement said.

It is accurate that the Diocese is a mandated reporter under Ohio law, but the law clarifies that one of the agencies they can report to is children services. 

Justin Huyck, coordinator of media relations for the Diocese, said the action taken was in keeping with the law and their policy. 

“With respect to reporting, the applicable statute (Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect) provides that “…the person making the report shall make it to the public children services agency or a peace officer in the county in which the child resides or in which the abuse or neglect is occurring or has occurred,” Huyck said in an email. 

“When the law was first enacted, the diocese and diocesan attorneys worked to determine whether it would be better to report to Children Services or law enforcement, and after discussions with local prosecutors, we reached a consensus that reporting to Children Services was the better choice because of the agencies’ greater familiarity with children’s issues. Our Safe Environment Policy refers to cooperating with “public authorities,” Huyck said. 

According to the Diocese, Fr. Marian Babjak remains a priest with the Diocese, but with restricted faculties prohibiting him from celebrating the sacraments publicly, wearing clerical attire or presenting himself as a priest in good standing.

However, the Diocese has stated that Babjak being placed on leave does not presume guilt, as the purpose for the leave is “to conduct a thorough and objective investigation.”

The statement says that this leave not being an admission of guilt is “astonishing” and suggests the Diocese also inform the public on Babjak’s previous work assignments.

“This affirmative action would alert parishioners and the public. We know from statistics that those who harm children seldom have just one victim,” the statement said.

Babjak has not been charged with any crime at this point and is still, under the law, innocent until proven guilty.