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  Priest Put on 1-Year Leave Priest Put on One-Year Leave
David Gramkee Has Been Accused of Sexually Abusing a Teen-Age Girl in the 1970s


By Scott Rapp
Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
June 27, 2002

For the past 10 years, say parishioners at St. Patrick's Church in Seneca Falls, the Rev. David N. Gramkee showed them the true meaning of Christianity.

Besides shepherding the church, Gramkee spearheaded collection efforts to help the poor in Nicaragua, volunteered at the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and was president of the Seneca County United Way board of directors.

"He's done an enormous amount of good for the church, and he's done an enormous amount of good for the community," said Joyce Zmuda, a St. Patrick's parishioner for 35 years.

That's why it was so surprising to Zmuda when she and other members of the church learned that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester this week placed Gramkee - at his request - on a one-year administrative leave of absence because of accusations he sexually abused a teen-age girl in the late 1970s.

Gramkee, 62, will not be able to work as a priest, wear clerical clothing or reside on parish or diocesan property, under terms of the leave of absence. He and his lawyer, Sally True of Ithaca, did not return telephone messages left Wednesday.

Gramkee was associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Auburn from June 1974 to February 1975, and also worked at churches in Elmira, Ithaca and Rochester before becoming pastor at St. Patrick's in June 1992, according to diocesan records.

The diocese first learned of the accusations in 1993, and Gramkee underwent counseling at the recommendation of a lay advisory panel. He was allowed to continue working as a priest.

However, the case was reopened after the victim, who still lives in the Rochester Diocese, contacted diocesan officials earlier this year, Condon said. Now, an advisory panel to Bishop Matthew H. Clark, comprised of lawyers and members of law enforcement and the psychiatric community, will review the case and make a recommendation to Clark.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" that calls for the removal of a priest from all ministry duties for sexually abusing any minor. Clark supported the move.

Michael Tedesco, a diocesan spokesman, said it is doubtful that Gramkee will be allowed to minister in a church again because, "He's acknowledged that a relationship (with the minor) took place."

Gramkee is the eighth priest working in the Rochester Diocese to be suspended or removed from the ministry since April.

A member of the Seneca County United Way board of directors for seven years and board president since March, Gramkee has been a model volunteer, said Karen Beals, the agency's executive director.

"He's always there, always supportive, and he's dedicated," Beals said.

On Monday, Gramkee celebrated possibly his last Mass to a packed church, said Joyce Sinicropi, a longtime parishioner. Like Zmuda, she considers Gramkee a family friend and was shocked to learn of his problems.

"I think he's a wonderful priest. He has shown us how to be better Christians to people who are in need. ... He told us (Monday) that he doesn't know what God has in mind for him, but he feels some good will come from it," said Sinicropi, who started weeping.

CORRECTION-DATE: June 28, 2002

CORRECTION:

The title and first name of the Rev. Daniel J. Condon, diocesan chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, was left out of a story Thursday about the Rev. David N. Gramkee of St. Patrick's Church in Seneca Falls. Gramkee was put on a one-year administrative leave of absence because of accusations he sexually abused a teen-age girl in the late 1970s.

 
 

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