Youngstown diocese releases findings in sex abuse investigation of Struthers priest

Mahoning Matters [Boardman OH]

July 18, 2022

A Youngstown Catholic Diocese oversight board determined though a Struthers priest had “inappropriate physical contact” with a minor, it “did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.”

The diocese announced Sunday in a news release that board’s decision, following an independent third-party investigation into Father Marian Babjak, most recently of Christ Our Savior Parish in Struthers, who was accused in November 2021 of sexually abusing a child.

That victim is now an adult, according to the diocese.

Babjak was placed on leave, according to the news release “to allow for a thorough and independent investigation, without presuming guilt or innocence,” the release states.

The diocese’s investigators interviewed all the subjects in the case, notified local authorities and also worked with Babjak’s accuser to review that person’s legal options, according to the release.

The Diocesan Review Board — comprised of medical and legal professionals trained for child sex abuse cases, most of whom are laypeople appointed by the bishop — then reviewed investigators’ evidence.

“The Diocesan Review Board determined that the allegation of inappropriate physical contact was credible and that there was a violation of the diocese’s Standards of Ministerial Excellence, but it did not rise to the level of sexual abuse,” reads the release. “The Review Board recommended that Father Babjak be considered for future active ministry, after a period of evaluation.”

Babjak agreed to that evaluation, according to the release.

Following the investigation, Babjak agreed to resign as pastor of Christ Our Savior, effective July 6, “indicating that his decision came after much prayer, and was made for the spiritual welfare of the parish,” according to the release.

“I commend the person making the allegation for coming forward,” the Most Rev. Bishop David Bonnar is quoted in the release. “This has been a very challenging time for so many people, including the person who brought forth the allegation, Father Babjak, and the faith community in Struthers.”

Babjak, who was ordained in 1995, joined Christ Our Savior Parish in August 2020, coming from Boardman’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish and St. Paul Parish in North Canton. Prior to 2016, he was assigned to minister in Slovakia.

The Very Rev. Philip Rogers, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Boardman, will become pastor of Christ Our Savior Parish on Aug. 1.

“Having previously served the faithful in Struthers, Father Rogers brings not only a familiar face but a shepherd’s heart,” Bishop Bonnar is quoted in the release. “I know that he is very excited to serve the people of Christ Our Savior Parish.”

A new pastor for St. Charles Borromeo will be announced “in the coming weeks,” according to the release.

The Youngstown diocese urges anyone who has experienced misconduct by a clergy member or church employees to contact police. They can also report it to the diocese’s Victims Assistance Coordinator Dominic Colucy at 330-744-8451, ext. 293, or by email, and through the diocese’s confidential hotline at 330-718-1388. Learn more about the diocese’s child protection policy here.

Several dozen of the diocese’s clergy and non-clergy members have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Here is the full list of their names and assignments.