Criticism mounts towards Crookston Diocese for placing priest on leave

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 6:56 PM CST
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Billboards have gone up in several areas in the valley criticizing a decision by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston to place a priest on administrative leave for allegations of wrongdoing.

Bishop Michael Hoeppner placed Father Bryan Kujawa on leave effective Tuesday and sent him to Pennsylvania to undergo an assessment.

The accusations against him are non-criminal and non-sexual and have to do with boundaries, according to the diocese.

People who know Father Bryan are coming to his support.

Rebecca Sunder said she first met him as a student at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Sunder developed a spiritual relationship with Father Bryan, strengthening her faith and he even married her and her husband.

“I was excited obviously but I also couldn't picture my wedding without Father Bryan being these because he had been somebody that had been impactful in my life,” Sunder said.

When she first heard of the accusations being levied against him, Sunder's world and faith was shaken by it. However, she stands behind Father Bryan.

“You just hope for people to see through all of the lies and the hurt,” Sunder said.

Father Bryan issued a statement calling complaints of improper behavior baseless and untrue.

The Diocese of Crookston has been marred in scandals recently, last year it agreed to a $5 million settlement with victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

Father Bryan was working at a church in Bemidji before he was placed on leave.

Jessica Marks met with Father Bryan last week at her Moorhead home.

“He is just asking us to pray for the whole situation, to pray for everybody involved, those making the accusations, for our bishop and for all of our leaders, just pray that all these things get sorted out,” Marks said.

As with others who know Father Bryan, Marks said these accusations are just not like him.

“I still don't believe the accusations against him. I know him to be a very upstanding guy, very honest, [and] very faithful,” Marks said.

According to the Diocese of Crookston, Father Bryan Kujawa will be placed on leave until the allegations are thoroughly investigated. It declined to comment further on the matter.

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