|Parish Wins Shield from Protesters
Judge Orders a 100-Foot Buffer to Keep Group Away from Holy Cross Services, School; Attorney Criticized
By Carol DeMare
Albany Times Union
January 21, 2006
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a legal procedure. State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo, in a decision on Friday, issued a preliminary injunction against attorney John Aretakis and demonstrators at Holy Cross Church in Albany. The injunction remains in effect while a lawsuit, with additional hearings, is pending
ALBANY -- A judge ordered attorney John Aretakis on Friday to stay at least 300 feet from Holy Cross parish during services and on school days, calling his conduct "aggressive and hostile."
A preliminary injunction issued by state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo also ordered Holy Cross protesters to keep 100 feet from the church entrances at Western Avenue and Rosemont Street.
The ruling followed a hearing, begun last fall, in a case brought by Holy Cross parish to curtail demonstrations during Sunday Masses that had been ongoing since May.
"The Albany Diocese believes (Spargo's) order should ensure adults and children will be able to attend Mass and school without fear of intimidation or harassment by John Aretakis," spokesman Ken Goldfarb said.
Parishioners testified they were confronted by protesters calling for the removal of the pastor, the Rev. Daniel J. Maher.
Protesters allege Maher molested an altar boy in 1973. An investigation by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese cleared the priest.
Witnesses called by church attorney Michael Costello said they were frightened by the protesters and seeing them from inside the church was disruptive.
Spargo's action makes permanent a temporary restraining order issued in September.
Protesters have moved across Western Avenue from Holy Cross under the leadership of Mark Lyman, co-director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
Aretakis said Spargo didn't give him and Lyman their day in court. The church called witnesses, but he and Lyman didn't, and they intended to, he said.
"Our case hasn't started," Aretakis said.
Lyman agreed. "We're only halfway through. This is not a surprise to us. The judge had indicated that he was going to make this decision."
Once an appellate court looks at the case, "and we get a fair trial and can present our case and our witnesses can be heard, I think the truth will be told," Lyman said.
The protesters vow an appeal to the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division. Last week, Lyman filed papers with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, claiming Spargo was biased in favor of the diocese, had conflicts of interest and should be removed. Arguments were set for Jan. 30.
In singling out Aretakis, who the judge described as an adviser to the protesters, the court ordered him to stay 300 feet away beginning one hour before and continuing for one hour after services and from within one hour before and one hour after school begins and ends.
In a 74-page decision -- in which much testimony is quoted -- the judge said Aretakis "has conducted himself in such an aggressive, confrontational and hostile manner as to cause there to be a grave and ongoing risk to the public safety and to the safety, health and well-being of the parishioners seeking to attend" services at Holy Cross Church.
He called Aretakis' conduct unseemly, provocative, taunting, manipulative and "unsettling to decent people."
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