Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 16, 2009
Local priest faces sexual assault charge
BY LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Well-known Edmonton area priest Father Don Bodnar is facing charges of sexual assault and sexual interference.
The pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Athabasca district, Bodnar is on administrative leave.
Charges were filed in January regarding incidents that allegedly happened between Sept. 16 and 27 in the Edmonton area.
There are two charges, one for sexual assault and one for sexual contact with a minor. A minor is anyone under the age of 16.
“When the allegations were brought to our attention on Jan. 5, we called Father Don in and chose to put him on administration leave,” said Father Gregory Faryna, chancellor for the Ukrainian Eparchy.
Faryna said the eparchy drafted its sexual abuse policy just last year and this is the first time it has been used.
Faryna said innocence or guilt does not come into play once such an allegation is made. “The clergy is removed from public service.”
The chancellor also underlined that it is “also important to note these are allegations and not proven fact yet. There is certainly much more to the story, but it cannot be shared because it is before the courts right now.”
Another point Faryna made is that the alleged incidents “are absolutely not connected to his priestly ministry in any way. He was part of a personal relationship.”
The chancellor said both parties were offered and are receiving counselling. Bodnar, who is married and has two children, chose to hire his own legal counsel.
Meanwhile, two retired priests have stepped in to help with the 11 parishes Bodnar presided over.
An incident like this makes a profound impact on parishioners.
“It’s a difficult thing for parishioners,” Faryna said. The eparchy sent word out to parish presidents “to have them contact us if people had any concerns or want to talk.
The chancellor says he went to Athabasca on the March 7-8 weekend and would be travelling to Carvel on the March 14-15 weekend to meet with parishioners.
Alberta Justice says Bodnar’s trial has been set for Sept. 28 in Edmonton Provincial Court.