Expedite Probe Involving Priest

The Intelligencer
November 19, 2007

We suspect that shock was just the beginning of emotions felt by many Ohio Valley residents, upon hearing that a priest serving in Neffs has been removed from duty because of an allegation that he sexually assaulted a minor in 1991.

The Rev. Gary A. Zalenski has been removed from his post at Sacred Heart Parish in Neffs, the Diocese of Steubenville announced. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon explained that the action was taken because of a "credible" allegation that Zalenski assaulted a girl while he was serving as a pastor in Guernsey County.

Few details of the allegation against Zalenski have been made available. It needs to be remembered that thus far, he is the subject only of an allegation. Regardless of the gravity of an accusation, the focus of it is innocent until proven guilty.

Still, it appears that the Diocese acted properly in removing Zalenski from his post, in view of the fact that his superiors view the allegation as a "credible" one.

The matter has been referred to the Guernsey County prosecuting attorney's office, according to the Diocese — which noted that all information obtained in its investigation has been turned over to the prosecutor.

Roman Catholic Church officials now will review the allegations in order to determine what additional action, if any, to take in regard to the situation. "This could take some time," Conlon has noted.

Clearly, such an investigation — particularly one involving an act alleged to have occurred so many years ago — will be difficult and time consuming. However, we urge Guernsey County authorities to pursue it with all possible dispatch. And, we urge Belmont County law enforcement officials to look into the situation, too.

For the good of all concerned — and that includes a large number of people, because Zalenski is a priest — the investigation by both church and civil authorities should be expedited.


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