Byzantine Catholic Priest Is Linked to Sexual Web Site

By Christine Schiavo
Morning Call
May 31, 2002

A Byzantine Catholic priest is using a South Whitehall Township-based Web site featuring sexually suggestive pictures of young men to solicit charitable donations for a paralyzed accident victim.

But the Web site apparently has raised more eyebrows than money.

The Rev. Glenn Michael Davidowich, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church in Mont Clare, Montgomery County, established a Web site in 1999 for the Junior Professional Wrestling Association Inc.

Davidowich incorporated the JPWA as a for-profit venture located at his parents' South Whitehall home.

Deactivated Wednesday after its purpose was questioned in published accounts, the site regularly showcased bikini-clad men named Biff Backstreet, Bad Brad and Johnny Heartbreaker in contorted positions and close embraces.

In January, its home page featured a man wearing a Santa hat, Speedo and Christmas bow.

Davidowich founded the JPWA to benefit Tomas Mejia, a Lake Forest, Calif., teenager who was paralyzed in a 1994 car accident.

But Mejia's mother, Marcella, said Wednesday she was unaware of the Web site or the wrestling association, which purports to sell photos and videos as a way of raising money for Mejia.

"I don't know anything about the Web site," she said. "I don't know anything about this."

Marcella Mejia did say her family received donations several years ago from James E. Curran, a California priest whose name appears on the Web site.

Davidowich did not return calls for comment.

Marcella Mejia said she hadn't seen Curran since he was transferred from a parish in Orange, Calif., several years ago. Reached Wednesday at his current parish in Stone Mountain, Ga., Curran said, "I have nothing to say." His attorney, Richard Leamy, told the Los Angeles Times that Davidowich had donated about $1,500 to the fund Curran set up for Mejia.

Leamy also told The Times that Curran severed ties with Davidowich several years ago after viewing the JPWA Web site.

But California public records show that Curran had established a similar organization that also depicted bare-chested, scantily clad wrestlers on its Web site.

JPWA President Tony Karl issued a written statement Thursday saying that his organization sent Curran about $2,000 a year for Mejia since 1998. He said the JPWA never sent money to Mejia directly and that the last check sent to Curran for Mejia was returned unopened.

Karl said Curran got Davidowich involved in the Mejia fund and that Curran had helped form a West Coast wrestling organization to benefit it, too. He said Curran's organization has since closed.

Karl defended the JPWA Web site, saying the images of boys and men age 16-30 were not sexually suggestive and that teenagers had parental permission to participate.

"Everything that is posted has to pass the scrutiny of my own mother," he said.

Unlike traditional amateur wrestlers, JPWA men do not wear singlets or headgear. They wrestle not in live matches but in video tapings, some of which were filmed in St. Michael's rectory a few miles from Valley Forge, according to Karl.

"The majority of our wrestlers are athletes who are proud of their healthy and fit appearances and feel that they are dressed appropriately for wrestling entertainment," he said.

Karl stressed that the JPWA has never been affiliated with St. Michael's or the Byzantine church and added that Davidowich stepped down as director last year at the request of Bishop Andrew Pataki, head of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy in Passaic, N.J.

The JPWA has not filed a tax return with the state's Bureau of Charitable Organizations, which requires nonprofit agencies to file returns if they raise more than $25,000 in a year.

Neither the Montgomery County district attorney's office nor the state attorney general's office are investigating.

The JPWA Web site is still registered at Davidowich's parents' South Whitehall address. The parents, George and Eleanor Davidowich, did not return calls for comment.

In 2000, according to documents filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State, the organization's status changed to nonprofit. In requesting the change, Davidowich wrote that the association was set up as a short-term fund-raising project but that, "due to its success in aiding Tomas and his family," its officers agreed to continue as a nonprofit corporation.

The association proceeded with the shift after a unanimous vote by its five-member board, which included its attorney, Sister Donna Jean Conn of the Order of St. Basil the Great. She left the order in January and could not be reached for comment.

On May 13, the organization filed a change of address, from South Whitehall to an address in Plains, Luzerne County.

The Web site listed "Glenn Michael" as the founder and former director, but did not include his last name or church affiliation.

Karl of the JPWA said in his statement that Davidowich resigned as director after parishioners at St. Michael's expressed concerns to Pataki about their pastor's involvement in the association. That explanation could not be confirmed; Pataki did not return calls for comment.

Davidowich was ordained in 1989 as a Byzantine Catholic priest, who, like Roman Catholic priests, may not marry. He has been with St. Michael's in Montgomery County for about two years, according to Mike Kolessar, a parishioner.

Kolessar said Davidowich has performed his pastoral duties well at the small parish. He said he was aware of the controversial Web site through media accounts, but hadn't seen it.

Davidowich is a graduate of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. When he was ordained, he listed his home parish as St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church in Dunellen, N.J.

He occasionally has said Mass at St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church in Allentown.

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