Isle Priest Admits to Sex Abuse of Boy
As Part of a Settlement in a Lawsuit, the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III Says He Is Sorry for the Assault 29 Years Ago
By Mary Adamski and Rosemarie Bernardo
Honolulu Star-Bulletin [Honolulu HI]
November 9, 2005
A KAUAI-BORN Catholic priest admitted to sexually abusing a teenage boy 29 years ago and will pay a portion of his income for the next 10 years to his accuser in the settlement of a lawsuit.
An apology for the misconduct of the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III, 52, was read aloud yesterday before Circuit Judge Bert Ayabe, who accepted the settlement agreement between the priest, his religious congregation and his accuser.
"I'm relieved the truth is now out," said Eugene Saulibio, a 44-year-old father of three children. "When I was 15 years old, Father Joseph Bukoski gave me drugs and alcohol, waited until I passed out and then sexually assaulted me.
"He caused me a lot of harm to me and my family," said the Aiea man who was near tears in a courthouse news conference. "It's really important to me that everybody starts healing -- not only me and my family, but all Catholics."
In the settlement agreement announced by attorneys:
» The Fathers of the Sacred Hearts will pay Saulibio an undisclosed amount in damages. Confidentiality was a condition required by the religious order, said Saulibio's attorney, Margery Bronster.
» The Fathers of the Sacred Hearts agreed that Bukoski will not be allowed to work with children.
» Bukoski will give Saulibio $50 a month from the $200 stipend he receives.
» Paul Schraff, Sacred Hearts attorney, read aloud the religious order's apology for "not stepping in earlier and putting a stop to this." Bukoski wrote a separate apology to Saulibio.
» The priest and the religious congregation will publish their apologies in the Hawaii Catholic Herald.
In his apology, Bukoski acknowledged the pain he caused Saulibio and wrote that he was sorry for a telephone call to the victim. In 2002, after Saulibio had complained to the Honolulu Diocese about Bukoski, the priest called Saulibio and tried to downplay the incident.
Earlier this year, Saulibio received $50,000 in settlement from a nun, a therapist who was also named as a defendant in the suit filed in 2003.
Bukoski appeared before the judge Monday, accompanied by the Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, representing the Sacred Hearts order. They were not in court yesterday, and did not respond to requests for comment.
BUKOSKI IS one of two priests to be removed from local ministry in the clergy sex scandal that arose in Boston in early 2002 and led to dismissal of Catholic priests around the nation. The other local case involved a priest sent back to the Philippines to answer complaints there.
Former Hawaii Bishop Francis DiLorenzo suspended Bukoski from the position of pastor of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina in May 2002 after another man claimed he was sexually abused 20 years earlier.
In August 2002, the bishop removed him from serving as a priest in Hawaii after Saulibio's accusation was investigated by the diocese.
Bukoski was not a priest in 1976 when the attack described by Saulibio occurred. Bukoski had taken religious vows as a Sacred Hearts brother at the time and lived at the Sacred Hearts Seminary in Kaneohe. Saulibio stayed there for the summer while attending summer school.
According to the suit, Bukoski's superiors knew about the sexual abuse but kept him in the order, raised him to priest and "assisted him in concealing his antisocial behavior out of a concern that the disclosure of Father Bukoski's character faults would be more harmful to the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts than permitting Joseph Bukoski to minister to the public."
Bukoski was ordained in 1979 and, after four years as associate pastor at St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki, went on to achieve high positions in the church here. He served as a canon law expert in the diocesan tribunal office and was elected twice to be provincial, head of the Sacred Hearts in Hawaii. In 1995, he led a local delegation to participate in the beatification of Father Damien DeVeuster in Brussels, Belgium.
Bukoski originally denied the allegations made against him. He appealed to the Vatican to intervene, claiming his due process rights under canon law were not followed when the bishop removed him. But the Vatican confirmed the bishop's decision. At the time, the priest addressed his appeal to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Vatican Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, who this year became Pope Benedict XVI.
SAULIBIO'S SUIT claimed that he developed emotional and psychological problems stemming from the assault, was dismissed as a seminarian after a suicide attempt, and suffered "severe emotional distress" when the first accusation against Bukoski was published in May 2002. His complaint to the Catholic diocese led to conversations with Guerreiro and Sister Claudia Wong, a therapist who questioned his belated memories of the 1976 event.
Wong was named in the suit, and settled earlier this year, paying Saulibio $50,000 and writing an apology, saying she did not "intend to either judge or question your recollection of your encounter with Joseph Bukoski."
Saulibio told reporters that he still is a Catholic and is raising his children in the Catholic Church. He said the ordeal has made it difficult for him to go to church. "But I feel, with all this behind me, I can finally start to do that again, hopefully. I don't know if I can go this Sunday, but I can work it into my mind that one day I will be able to do that. I still have belief and faith in the Catholic church. It's just some people have tainted it a little bit," Saulibio said.
Bukoski lives at the Sacred Heart Center and is still a priest. Only the Vatican can remove a man from the priesthood. The U.S. Conference of Bishops has not recommended that action in most other cases of priests' sexual attacks on minors.
ADMISSIONS AND APOLOGIES
The court agreement includes the publishing of these two apologies:
I write you to apologize for what I did to you, and for the pain you have suffered as a result of my actions in the summer of 1976 and my phone call to you in 2002. I am truly sorry for all you have gone through and suffered as a result of my actions. I should have apologized much sooner.
Aloha Ke Akua,
Joseph Bukoski III