Kujawa was assigned to Bemidji parish
The Diocese of Crookston has released a statement announcing one of their priests was put on administrative leave after apparent “boundary violations.”
Fr. Bryan Kujawa was on assignment at St. Philip’s Church in Bemidji when he was placed on leave, effective Tuesday, and had practiced at St. Charles in Pennington and Holy Spirit Newman Center in Bemidji.
In their statement, the Diocese said there have been several issues concerning Fr. Kujawa’s “fitness for ministry” that have been brought to Bishop Hoeppner’s attention over time including “non-criminal, non-sexual, boundary violations.”
“Accordingly, Fr. Kujawa will remain on leave until these matters have been further investigated, a professional comprehensive assessment is complete, and the Diocesan Review Board makes further recommendations,” the Diocese’s statement read.
FR. BRYAN KUJAWA
In a letter addressed to “Brothers and Sisters in Christ”, Fr. Kujawa announced that he was ordered to undergo an assessment at St. John Vianney Center in Pennsylvania and, after being told that the decision was being made due to complaints of boundary violations against him, said that he was “shocked” and “disappointed” although he knows that bishops have a “grave duty” to respond seriously to reports of misconduct.
“In 2017, a minor girl approached me to request that I be her spiritual director,” Fr. Kujawa stated in the letter. “With the knowledge of her mother, I agreed to serve as her spiritual director. However, the girl’s parents felt it was inappropriate that we had communicated via text message in order to schedule dates and times for spiritual direction and that I did not always notify them when we were meeting. Bishop Hoeppner was apprised of this complaint in 2017, and we discussed it in person. All parties involved agree that although there was nothing at all inappropriate about the content of these communications, the method of communication was inappropriate. I am grateful that they brought it to my attention, and I have corrected my behavior accordingly.”
“Since 2017, I have been told that there have been three other complaints made against me, all by women who were apparently not minors and which did not involve illegal acts,” Fr. Kujawa added. “In September 2018, an anonymous person made an unfounded accusation of “verbal abuse” and “manipulation.” In December 2019, a woman - whose identity was not made known to me - complained that I had gotten upset with her that she missed Mass. Finally and most recently, a woman - whose identity was not made know to me - complained that she heard from her friend, who herself did not want to make a complaint, that I rubbed her thigh in confession. To be clear, I have no knowledge of who the alleged penitent was, but I can assert that this complaint is false. Because I have never done and would never do such thing with any penitent in confession, ever, I am shocked that Bishop Hoeppner and Msgr. Foltz would act on such hearsay.”
Fr. Bryan Kujawa went on to say in his letter that, after his meeting with Bishop Hoeppner and Msgr. Foltz, and after seeking advice of others including canon lawyers, he has taken the first step in “administrative recourse” and have “requested the suspension and revocation of Bishop Hoeppner’s decision.”
“I believe that Bishop Hoeppner’s decision was made in error for two reasons,” Fr. Kujawa explained. “First, I believe he erred because he neither sought out the necessary information or proofs regarding the complaints, nor suitably heard me given the paucity of information I was given about the complaints. Second, I believe he erred because the decision was based on unfounded complaints that have been neither investigated nor substantiated as of January 8th.”
“Unfortunately, in the present atmosphere, any sudden absence of a priest from ministry could lead the faithful to assume the worst, and who could blame them?” he continued later in the letter. “For this reason, I am writing to make clear the circumstances of my case. Of course, I never want to drive anyone away from the faith by my words or actions, nor do I want to hurt anyone as I strive to preach the gospel in the fullness. At the same time, I attest these complaints are baseless and untrue.”
Fr. Bryan Kujawa lists on social media that he’s from Crookston, lives in Bemidji, studied coaching at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, is a former equipment manager for the U of M football department, studied philosophy at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and studied at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.
Billboards have gone up in several cities such as Crookston demanding justice for Fr. Bryan Kujawa and asking people to contact Crookston Diocese Bishop Michael Hoeppner or Msgr. Foltz.
A prayer vigil demonstration was allegedly held Saturday evening in the Highland Park parking lot near the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Crookston in support of Fr. Kujawa. The vigil organizer, Tom Morrissey, posted on social media that he did notify the Crookston police announcing the right for citizens to demonstrate on public property.