IL--Priest with Chicago-based group is accused of strangling a four month old

For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016

Statement by Melanie Jula Sakoda, Orthodox Christian Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (

A priest with a Chicago-based group was charged with strangling an infant last week. We urge his church supervisors and colleagues to aggressively help law enforcement investigate and prosecute this cleric and do everything they can to find others who may have information or suspicions about his crimes.

Father Oleh Zhownirovych is or was a priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), based in Bloomingdale IL (in the western Chicago suburbs). The crime took place in a Kansas City KS suburb.

Zhownirovych worked at Holy Ascension Cathedral in Clifton, New Jersey. According to the vice president of the parish council, the married priest led the church for 15 years. However, his wife and two children eventually left him, and he was removed from ministry last year because of his drinking. UOC-KP is a very small Orthodox Church. It is led by Archpriest Victor Poliarny (630-217-5524, of Elgin. 

We call on Poliarny to reach out to staff, volunteers and parishioners at the Clifton parish and anywhere else the accused priest has worked.Behavior like this doesn’t usually just begin in someone Father Oleh’s age. Father Victor should be reaching out to the priest’s family and to current and former parishioners, encouraging anyone who was abused by the priest, who witnessed abuse by the priest, or who suspected the priest of abuse to report to law enforcement.If Father Oleh did show a sudden change in personality, the vicariate should reveal all that they did to get the priest the help that he must have needed, especially since the clergyman has now assaulted an innocent baby!

We also feel that Poliarny should clarify the clergyman’s current status: is Zhownirovych on a leave of absence, suspended, or defrocked? In addition, we believe that the vicariate should share with police what it has in its files about the reasons behind the priest’s removal from his parish.No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we hope that individuals would protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - Melanie Jula Sakoda (, Cappy Larson (

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