Local Priest Defrocked

By Kate York
Marietta Times [Ohio]
June 17, 2006

A former Washington County priest was notified this week that Pope Benedict XVI has declared him no longer a member of the clergy, following his sexual abuse of a 17-year-old boy.

Anthony Jablonowski, 69, who still resides at a religious community he helped establish in 1997 in Waterford, was the priest at St. John's Catholic Church in Churchtown when allegations arose that he had abused a minor while serving as a priest in Wyoming in the 1980s. He had also briefly served as an associate pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Marietta during his 36 years as a priest.

Jablonowski pleaded guilty and served part of the 15-month to seven-year sentence he received. Since 2003, he had been under directives from the Diocese of Steubenville not to publicly identify himself as a priest, engage in public ministry or associate himself with a religious order.

The pope's decree is a final step in the process, said Monsignnor Gerald Calovini, spokesman for the Diocese of Steubenville, Friday.

"When they first became aware of this, the diocese restricted his actions," he said. "But this is a dismissal from the clergy. It's permanent."

Calovini said each case of abuse is studied by the Pope before a decision is made.

"Each case is judged on its own merits," he said. "If you're found to be guilty it's sent to the Holy Father for a judgment to be issued."

Pope Benedict XVI issued the decree on April 7 but Jablonowski was not notified until Tuesday.

Calovini said Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Steubenville informed Jablonowski of the decision in person.

It means the Washington County man can no longer exercise any priestly functions or present himself as a priest.

"What I'm hoping and I think the survivors are hoping is that his being defrocked will maybe help some of the people who still believed he was innocent," said Judy Jones, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) leader for the Steubenville Diocese. "Maybe they will now believe he did abuse minors."

The decree may give Jablonowski's victim some peace, she said.

"Maybe it will help but I don't know if there's ever closure," she said. "It's such a sickening thing."

Calovini said now that Jablonowski is a lay person and not a member of the clergy, he is free to live at the Carmelite Missionaries of Mary Immaculate community on Strahler Road in Waterford.

Even against the order of the diocese, Jablonowski had answered the phone at the community and appeared to have lived there since his release from a Wyoming prison.

The Pope's decision on Jablonowski's status is final and there is no appeal process, Calovini said.

"We're praying for those that were in any way harmed by priests in church, we're praying for Anthony and we're praying for the strength of our church," he said. "It's a sad day for the church and it's a sad day for the diocese because we've lost a priest."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.