Retired Priest Accused of Molesting Alter Boy 40 Years Ago

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 17, 2002

A Big Island man who claims he was sexually molested by a Roman Catholic missionary 40 years ago says the priest gave him some spiritually twisted advice.

"He told me that if whatever I was doing was wrong or was bad, just go to confession," Glenn Gravela said. "I went to confession. He was the priest."

Gravela, 50, said he and his late brother, Michael, were alter boys when the priest molested them on 10 to 15 occasions at Sacred Heart Church in Naalehu.

Gravela, who said he was too embarrassed at the time to tell his parents, reported the abuse to authorities in May after recent national publicity about sexual misconduct by priests jogged his memory.

Police turned the case over to prosecutors, who said the statute of limitations for prosecution has expired.

"It doesn't mean the crime didn't occur," Hawaii County First Deputy Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi said. "It just means we can't do anything."

Marybeth Christie, a spokeswoman for Maryknoll, N.Y.-based Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, said the priest, who is now 84 years old, denied the allegations.

"He does remember the family but denies that anything improper occurred," Christie said.

The priest was assigned to Hawaii as a missionary from 1948 to 1992 and worked at Sacred Heart Church from about 1960 to 1992, Christie said. He is now living at St. Teresa's Residence in New York, a home for retired Maryknoll missionaries, she said.

Four decades ago, the priest came to the Gravela home and said he needed company because he wasn't feeling well, Gravela said.

Gravela's mother sent Michael to spend the night with the priest in his cottage next to the church.

"The following week he wanted company again. My brother refused, so my mom made both of us go," Gravela said.

Michael didn't want to go because he had been sexually molested the week before, he said.

Gravela said he knows of two other alleged victims, who were also alter boys.

Christie said a review of the priest's file revealed no previous allegations of abuse. Nevertheless, Maryknoll officials responded to Gravela's complaint, she said.

"Our first priority is the wellness of the victim," Christie said. "It is absolutely our commitment to help him."


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