|Clergy Sex-Abuse Allegations Aired by Victim Advocates
By Hannan Adely
October 17, 2011
WOODLAND PARK — Advocates for an alleged clergy sex-abuse victim held a press conference Monday outside Byzantine Catholic Church offices to claim abuse by a priest and to urge any other potential victims to come forward.
Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for a Hopewell man who claimed he was abused, alleged the Rev. Glenn Davidowich, a Byzantine priest who once worked in Mahwah, operated a youth wrestling organization to gain access to young boys for sexual purposes and also operated a website that sold sexually suggestive wrestling videos of teenage boys.
In June, the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic on Lackawanna Avenue, the organization that represents about 17,700 Byzantine Catholics in 11 eastern states, agreed to pay the 36-year-old Hopewell man $200,000 and to pay for counseling sessions and prescription medicine for five years. It said the settlement was not an admission of guilt.
Davidowich has denied allegations of sexual misconduct and was placed on administrative leave when the abuse claim was reported two years ago, according to a statement by the Eparchy, and "steps are in progress for his return to the lay state."
But Garabedian insisted, "The church needs to report this man to the authorities and alert the public to his whereabouts and what he is accused of."
Davidowich now lives in Manitowoc, Wis. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is one of many Eastern churches that are part of the Catholic Church and that answer to the Vatican. In 2010, there were more than 646,000 members nationwide of the Ruthenian Byzantine Church to which the Eparchy belongs, according to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Church leaders declined to comment outside a statement issued by their lawyer, Thomas De Vita, of Clifton, on Monday that, "We are saddened by these events, and we request your prayers for forgiveness and healing."
Davidowich, who was ordained in 1989, has served in numerous churches in Trenton, Roebling and Perth Amboy, and at Holy Spirit Byzantine Church in Mahwah around 1996. He also has had church assignments in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Hopewell man, who chose to remain anonymous, claimed Davidowich molested him some 20 years ago when he was ages 15 to 17 and the priest was an assistant pastor at St. Mary the Assumption Church in Trenton. His allegations include sexual abuses committed during wrestling sessions the priest would engage him in.
The man attempted suicide in 2009, and that brought his allegations to light. At a crisis center, he subsequently was referred to Road to Recovery, a support group for victims of clergy sex abuse based in North Jersey.
A co-founder of the website in question, which sold videos of boys wrestling in Speedos and with names like "Bad Brad" and "Hardcore Kid," denied years ago that the site was intended for sexual purposes.
But the Rev. Robert Hoatson, a Roman Catholic priest and co-founder of Road to Recovery, said church leaders should have been aware of problems with the priest, especially years later when the wrestling website was revealed.
"He [Davidowich] still remains a priest. He should be defrocked," Hoatson said.
Garabedian, who has represented many sex abuse victims in the Boston area, said the abuse was part of a pattern of failure by the Catholic Church to prevent and report sexual abuse by clergy. He said he hoped the story would inspire other victims to come forward and report abuse.
"What we're doing," he said, "is breaking the silence so they know they are not the only ones."
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