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  Maui Priest Appeals for Help from Vatican
The Rev. Bukoski Was Suspended As Pastor after an Allegation of Sexual Abuse Surfaced

By Mary Adamski
Honolulu Star - Bulletin (Hawaii)
August 3, 2002

A Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor has appealed to the Vatican to intervene in his removal as pastor of a Maui parish.

The Rev. Joseph Bukoski III appealed the action taken by Honolulu Catholic Bishop Francis DiLorenzo in May in response to an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor 20 years ago. Bukoski denies the allegation.

After putting the priest on administrative leave from his position at Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina, the bishop received a second allegation against Bukoski claiming sexual abuse of another minor more than 25 years ago, while Bukoski was a seminarian.

As a result of the second accusation, the bishop "has delayed indefinitely any decision regarding Father Bukoski's return to active ministry in the diocese," according to a statement Thursday in the Hawaii Catholic Herald. No details about either allegation, including the identity of the accusers, have been made public.

Bukoski, 49, former canon law officer for the diocese, confirmed last night that he has appealed to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. He said that his due process has been violated, contrary to church law and diocesan policy.

Information on his appeal was made public yesterday by one of his supporters. Jan Pasamonte, Maria Lanakila Church's financial officer, lashed out against the diocese for publicizing the second allegation.

She alleged that the bishop was "very upset and unnerved" by the appeal to Rome, which was filed last month, and that he retaliated by publicizing the second accusation before due process was observed.

"To date, Father Bukoski has not been contacted for his statement or given due process of law, namely self-defense. Since diocesan policy was not followed, this statement should not have been released," said Pasamonte in a written statement to the media.

Bukoski said last night that Pasamonte's statement was released with his approval. He declined to answer questions about the cases, except to say that he has not been told by the diocese about the second accusation against him nor given the chance to respond.

Bukoski is a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts and has lived at the Kaneohe headquarters of the organization since May.

Diocesan spokesman Patrick Downes said yesterday that DiLorenzo wrote to the Vatican department after Bukoski notified the diocese of his appeal.

Downes said that the Rev. Gary Secor, who chairs the diocesan Standing Committee for Sexual Misconduct, has held conversations with the second accuser, who called in late May. The committee discussed the case at its July 26 meeting, he said.

In the first case, the Standing Committee for Sexual Misconduct considered written statements from the accuser and accused. Downes said the bishop then acted on the eight-member board's recommendation that Bukoski be suspended.

In response to the board's further advice that he receive professional evaluation and treatment, Bukoski underwent psychiatric evaluation in June at a Seattle clinic. His superior, the Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, Sacred Hearts provincial, said the written report from Therapy and Renewal Associates is not expected until mid-August.

Pasamonte wrote that "the bishop made the decision to remove Father Bukoski as pastor even before his psychological assessment took place or the results received.

"In my humble opinion, Bishop DiLorenzo has disgraced the office of the bishop. ... Moreover, he has regrettably harmed our beloved Catholic faith in Hawaii," she wrote.

She said that more than 1,000 Maria Lanakila parishioners and other supporters have signed a petition asking reinstatement of Bukoski, who was pastor for four years.

"For those of us in Lahaina who support Father Bukoski, a decent man and a good priest, our employment with the church will be jeopardized because of our God-given right of free speech," she wrote.

Pasamonte said although the published announcement this week says Bukoski is on administrative leave, the bishop wrote in a June 10 letter that he was removed as pastor. Downes said the letter was just an official confirmation of the May 20 action taken.

To be on administrative leave means Bukoski may not function in a public capacity as a priest in this diocese, Downes said.

Bukoski's removal is the only action taken by the local diocese since the nationwide scandal arose earlier this year about Catholic priests involved in sexual abuse of minors. More than 200 priests around the nation have been removed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted this summer on a zero-tolerance policy in response to criticism of cover-ups of past crimes by priests.

DiLorenzo has said he removed four priests from duty for sexual misconduct soon after his arrival here in 1993 and that his policy is "zero tolerance" for sexual misconduct by priests.

 
 

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