Web Site Founded by Priest Featured Pictures of Young Wrestlers

By Michael Rubinkam
Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 3, 2002

A Web site founded by an Eastern Rite Catholic priest that featured images of scantily clad young wrestlers was voluntarily shut down last week after questions were raised about its content and purpose.

The Junior Professional Wrestling Association site offered to sell photos and videos of the wrestlers - purportedly to raise money for a paralyzed California man.

The site displayed teen-agers and young men with nicknames such as "Johnny Heartbreaker" and "Bad Brad" who wore bikini briefs and were seen in various intimate wrestling poses.

The Rev. Glenn Michael Davidowich, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church in the Philadelphia suburb of Mont Clare, founded the wrestling association in 1999 to raise money for Tomas Mejia, according to documents he filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Although the wrestling association was never affiliated with St. Michael Church, some of the matches were staged in the church rectory.

Tony Karl, the director and webmaster of the JPWA, defended the wrestling association as "sports entertainment" and a legitimate fund-raising tool. In a written statement, he said "unfair attacks and embarrassment" forced the Web site to shut down last Wednesday.

"We are not, have never been, and will never be pornographic or sexual," Karl said, adding the JPWA was a "makeshift attempt to mimic and spoof pro wrestling."

Karl declined a phone interview and did not respond to follow-up questions. Davidowich did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Mejia, of Lake Forest, Calif., was a teen-ager when he was paralyzed and suffered brain damage in a 1994 auto accident.

A Roman Catholic priest in California, Father James Curran, established a fund in 1994 to help pay the family's medical bills. He told Davidowich of Mejia's plight and also formed a wrestling venture similar to Davidowich's, called Con Ganas Sports Entertainment, to raise money for Mejia, Karl said.

But Mejia's mother, Marcela Mejia, said Monday she has not received money from either wrestling organization. She said Curran did pay some of the family's bills several years ago.

"I don't know dates, I don't know anything," she said. "My son is my world, the most important thing."

Karl said the JPWA sent six checks totaling $5,760 to the fund administered by Curran, whose organization, Con Ganas, shut down last year. Curran, who is now a pastor in Stone Mountain, Ga., was out of town Monday and a spokesman for his religious order, the Claretians, did not return a phone call.

Davidowich resigned from the JPWA in February 2001 after Bishop Andrew Pataki of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic in West Patterson, N.J., confronted him with parishioners' concerns, Karl said. Pataki did not return a phone call Monday.

Karl said he found nothing wrong with the wrestlers' attire. "The majority of our wrestlers are athletes who are proud of their healthy and fit appearances, and feel they are dressed appropriately for wrestling entertainment," he said.

About 110 people aged 16 to 30 have wrestled for the JPWA, Karl said. About 25 of them were minors who had parental consent, he said.

Eight of the wrestling matches were taped in the St. Michael rectory.

"In August 2000, Davidowich realized it was poor judgment to film on parish property, and told the (JPWA) board no further taping would take place on parish property," Karl said.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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