While ministering in San Bernardino, California, in 2014, a Chicago-area priest named Joseph Jablonski told a boy something that prompted the bishop’s office there, when it found out, to notify the authorities and bar him from ever again ministering in that diocese.
The bishop’s office decided that Jablonski’s words — deemed to be an attempt at “grooming” for a possible sexual encounter — amounted to “sexual abuse,” according to records and interviews.
But that didn’t prevent Jablonski from continuing over the next several years to serve as a priest in other places — including Chicago, Aurora and Joliet.
That’s because, although the Diocese of San Bernardino immediately notified Jablonski’s religious order — the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, whose Chicago-area headquarters is in Aurora — the order, which describes what happened as “an inappropriate conversation,” kept things quiet.
“The provincial at the time didn’t feel any obligation to contact any other diocese,” the Rev. Richard Kennedy, who has led the order’s U.S. province since 2018, says of his predecessor.
“Whether or not that was prudent,” Kennedy says, Jablonski “was formally corrected and criticized” by his order “for getting himself in this situation.”
Kennedy says there have been no other substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against Jablonski.
Jablonski, who’s now in his 70s, wasn’t charged with any crime in San Bernardino.
Kennedy says Jablonski is leaving the order, which operates around the world.