|N.J. Cleric Sold Videos Showing Young Men in Suggestive Poses; Case Similar to Another Priest's Wrestling Scandal
By Mark Mueller
October 16, 2011
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — Nine years ago, the Rev. Glenn M. Davidowich made headlines around the country when he was identified as the founder and president of a company that produced and sold videos of teenage boys wrestling in Speedos.
Some likened the sexually suggestive videos — featuring wrestlers with names like the "Hardcore Kid" and "Bad Brad" — to child pornography. In several cases, the videos were shot on church property.
Despite the uproar, Davidowich was allowed to remain an active priest in the Byzantine Catholic Church, serving at parishes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
That decision is now in question. In June, the Eparchy of Passaic — the equivalent of a diocese — paid a Hopewell Township man $200,000 to settle claims Davidowich molested him for nearly three years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The allegations against Davidowich have some striking similarities to those lodged recently against the Rev. John M. Capparelli, a Roman Catholic priest suspended from ministry in 1992 amid complaints he had inappropriate contact with boys. Now a teacher in Newark, Capparelli also ran a website that sold videos of young men wrestling in Speedos.
There is no indication Davidowich and Capparelli know one another. Rather, they appear to share an interest in an erotic gay-wrestling subculture reflected in hundreds of websites and blogs.
"This is not the normal type of wrestling you would see on TV," said Keith Durkin, a sociology professor at Ohio Northern University and an expert on sex offenders and certain sexual behaviors. "This wrestling fetish is something that's underground. It's one of these different subcultures many people don't know exists."
What appears to be unique, however, is the use of minors in Davidowich's videos, Durkin said.
"This is usually about adult men who enjoy seeing adult men roll around with other adult men," he said.
The company Davidowich founded, the Junior Pro Wrestling Association, no longer sells videos over the internet, though they can still be found on eBay. The group's website remains active.
Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer representing Davidowich's alleged victim, contends wrestling provided a means to an end for the priest.
Just as some abusers gravitate to coaching to be near children, Davidowich "used the sport of wrestling to sexually molest a 15-year-old boy," said Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims of clergy abuse.
"He had the audacity to use a website to support it, and the church turned its back on these kids," he said.
The Passaic Eparchy, which includes Byzantine Catholic parishes and communities as far south as Florida, settled with the alleged victim before a lawsuit was filed. The Star-Ledger has obtained a copy of the agreement, which, in addition to the $200,000, requires the church to cover the costs of therapy and related medications for the man until 2016.
Thomas De Vita, a lawyer for the eparchy, said Davidowich has been placed on leave. He declined to elaborate.
Asked if the eparchy was moving to remove Davidowich from the priesthood, De Vita said such decisions could be made only by the church hierarchy in Rome. The Byzantine Catholic Church is autonomous from the Roman Catholic Church but remains under the auspices of the pope.
"There are investigations going on in the church under canon law," De Vita said.
Property records show Davidowich now lives in Manitowoc, Wis. There he shares an address with Tony Karl, who held the title of director of the Junior Pro Wrestling Association, records show. Neither man responded to requests for comment.
Davidowich, a 48-year-old Bayonne native who grew up in Dunellen, was ordained in 1989. He later served at churches in Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
It was at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Trenton that Davidowich met his alleged victim, then a 15-year-old altar boy and high school wrestler. The Star-Ledger has agreed to withhold the name of the man, now 37, because he is an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
Gradually, Davidowich drew the teen closer, wrestling and lifting weights with him, asking for massages and taking him on trips, said Garabedian, the Boston attorney.
Sometimes, he said, Davidowich groped the teen. Other times, he would jump on the youth, straddling him with an erection, Garabedian said. When the teen told Davidowich he was uncomfortable, the lawyer said, the priest belittled him.
The alleged abuse lasted until the youth was nearly 18, when Davidowich received a new assignment. But even now, Garabedian said, his client remains emotionally shattered.
"He's lost any sense of religion — his connection to God — that so many individuals rely on," the lawyer said. "He feels like he's in a spiritual wilderness."
Garabedian said the man began drinking heavily and using drugs, then questioned why his time in rehabilitation wasn't helping. In November 2009, he stood at the edge of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Hopewell Township, ready to jump, when a passing police officer spotted him and asked if he needed help, Garabedian said. The man was sent to a crisis center the same day. He has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawyer said.
Davidowich started the Junior Pro Wrestling Association in 1999, some eight years after he left the Trenton church, records show. He dissociated himself from the site in 2002, when news outlets linked him to the group.
Karl, the group's director, told the Los Angeles Times that year the websites's photographs had been misconstrued and that he and Davidowich "provide sports entertainment and nothing more." He added that wrestlers who were minors provided parental consent.
At the time, Davidowich was pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church in Mont Clare, Pa. He was soon reassigned to New Jersey, where he served simultaneously at Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Perth Amboy and Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Edison.
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