Priest Slated for Trial Dies
By Karin Williams
April 21, 2003
A Byzantine Catholic priest indicted by a grand jury on charges of sexually assaulting three boys has died, according to his lawyer and another priest.
Father John Danilak died last week and was buried quietly on Saturday at an undisclosed location, reportedly to avoid media coverage.
Though no confirmation was received through the Eparchy of Passaic, a local priest openly discussed Danilak's death during Easter services on both Saturday night and Sunday morning, according to parishioners.
Danilak, who had served locally in churches in Mont Clare, Pottstown and Philadelphia, was indicted by two separate grand juries in Ocean City, Md., last year, on 21 counts relating to the sexual abuse of three victims. At the time, Danilak was serving St. Gregory of Nyssa church in Beltsville, Md.
He died three weeks before he was slated to go to trial.
Although a specific date of death is not known, it was reported that Danilak may have died as early as last Tuesday. No obituary was published, and according to a man who says he was victimized by Danilak, no one was informed until well after Danilak had died.
The alleged victim's name is being withheld at the request of his attorney.
The alleged victim, who testified he was abused by Danilak, said he was not notified that Danilak had died, and did not know until he heard a rumor from an outside source.
He contacted several people closely related to the case, but he said they did not know either. After several fruitless telephone calls, the alleged victim said the death was finally confirmed by a member of Danilak's family.
The alleged victim said he is angry that he was not informed. He said he felt the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, which comprises about 100 churches from Connecticut to Florida, buried Danilak and tried to "shuffle it away as fast as possible."
"It really shows their arrogance," he said. "(The Eparchy) has demonstrated an absolute lack of regard for its parishioners."
Telephone calls placed to Bishop Andrew Pataki, leader of the Eparchy of Passaic, were not returned, possibly due to the holiday weekend.
Several parishioners said Father Glenn Michael Davidowich, pastor of St. Michael's Church in Mont Clare, addressed the congregation and spoke about Danilak's death during Easter services this weekend.
"Father Glenn (Davidowich) said that Father Danilak had passed and he was buried on (Holy) Saturday. The funeral bells tolled for one minute in his memory," said a parishioner who asked not to be identified.
The Saturday before Easter is known as Holy Saturday, the day on which Christ was buried; generally, burials are not scheduled during the three-day period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The parishioner said Davidowich told the congregation it was an honor that Danilak's body had been laid out in a church at the same time as the Body of Christ.
Before his death, Danilak was charged with 21 counts of abuse-related activity, including unnatural and perverted sex acts, sodomy and child abuse, stemming from his alleged attacks on three people, including the alleged victim quoted above, in a trailer in Ocean City, Md.
At the time of the indictment, Danilak's attorney, Thomas McManus of Sasscer, Clagett and Bucher law firm in Upper Marlboro, Md., said there were "two sides to this story."
Since Danilak is dead, he said he will not comment.
"I don't feel comfortable commenting about the specifics of the charges as it will not be going to trial," he said.
The charges will now be nullified, or voided, since the defendant is no longer living.
Representatives of the state Attorney's Office were not available for comment.
The alleged victim went public with his account of the incidents last year, after Danilak was indicted.
"I feel there are other victims out there who need to know they are not alone," he said.
The alleged victim is also angry at the church for allegedly not doing anything to stop Danilak, despite information obtained by a confidential source which he says indicates the church knew Danilak was a danger to children.
"He's a rapist, and he's on the altar giving people holy communion and baptizing people's babies. What is wrong with this picture?" the alleged victim's wife said. "That makes a mockery of our faith."
Due to what the alleged victim calls the secrecy of the death and burial, it is not known whether or not Danilak was buried as a priest. "They essentially buried him in secret. Which makes me wonder, what do they have to hide?" he said.
The parishioner from St. Michael's said she wondered why no information was available on the burial, and why Danilak's actual date of death and burial place weren't printed in the church bulletin.
"That certainly isn't usual," she said.
The bulletin read simply, "Please remember in your prayers Father John Danilak who passed away this week and was buried Saturday. May his memory be eternal."
It will be, the alleged victim said, to all the people Danilak abused.
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