Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2000
Priest admits to sexual abuse
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
An Oblate priest last month was given a conditional sentence of two years less one day after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a young girl 15 years ago.
Father Richard Wolak, a 63-year-old priest who once lived in St. Albert and taught moral theology at Newman Theological College, admitted he tickled and touched the groin of a 12-year-old girl over her clothes between January 1983 and December 1984. The incidents happened during Wolak's weekly v isits to the girl's St. Albert home.
St. Albert's Court of Queen Bench accepted the conditional sentence which was submitted jointly by the Crown prosecutor and Wolak's defence lawyer.
Judge Jeanne Birch ordered Wolak to keep the peace, report to a probation officer as directed and stay in Alberta or Saskatchewan. He must also complete 100 hours of community service.
Wolak was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of indecent assault in 1998, after the woman, now 27, launched a complaint with St. Albert RCMP. She claimed she had been fondled between January 1978 and December 1984.
Wolak, who now works at a residence for retired Oblate priests in Saskatoon, pleaded guilty to sexual assault Dec. 20. The charge relates to the period between 1983 and 1984.
The indecent assault charge, which applies to the allegations prior to 1983, was stayed.
The Toronto-born Wolak came to Edmonton in 1975. He taught moral theology at Newman Theological College for 19 years.
Father Leo Mann, superior of the Oblates of St. Mary's Province, told the WCR the order removed the priest from his ministries and sent him for treatment following an internal investigation into the allegations.
Wolak resigned his teaching post in May 1994 to enroll in a six-month residential program at Southdown Institute, an Aurora, Ont., facility that provides treatment for clergy with sexual adjustment problems.
Upon completion of the program, Wolak went to a seminary in Zambia for two years and then to a Toronto mission magazine before heading to his current post in Saskatoon.
Mann expressed regret for the priest's actions and said he hoped that healing and reconciliation will now follow.
"We have made our apology and Father Richard made his apology to the victim and to society," he said from Saskatoon Jan. 12. "There is hurt done and there is suffering on both sides of the situation. We want to express our apology for the hurt."
The Edmonton Archdiocese took action upon learning of the victim's allegations in 1994, noted Father Mike McCaffery, the archdiocese's chancellor.
"We tried to do what we could at the beginning but because he is an Oblate priest we had to turn the matter over to the Oblates," he said.