Long Island priest faces two lawsuits and police probe into alleged child sex abuse, but diocese won’t boot him
By Edgar Sandoval, Michael O’keeffe, Larry Mcshane
New York Daily News
May 25, 2016
|The Rev. Gregory Yacyshyn remains pastor of St. Jude in Mastic Beach, L.I., because the diocese has not received any “credible allegations” that he sexually abused children.|
|Bishop William Murphy has been accused of being tolerant of abusive priests.|
|Yacyshyn is a priest at St. Jude Church in Mastic Beach.|
|Bishop William Murphy made the decision to keep Yacyshyn.|
Photo by Dan Farrell
A Long Island priest remains on the job despite twin lawsuits accusing him of being a sexual predator of children — and a police probe of his alleged sick behavior.
The Rev. Gregory Yacyshyn’s position as pastor of St. Jude Church in Mastic Beach is safe due to a lack of “credible allegations” in the case, said a Rockville Centre Diocese spokesman.
Yacyshyn, in a brief conversation Wednesday with a Daily News reporter, offered a handshake and a “no comment” in the lobby of the church rectory.
“I can’t say anything because of the pending litigation,” he said, referring questions to his attorney.
Lawyer Elizabeth Kase said the priest is an innocent man and the target of a smear campaign.
“Father Yacyshyn has always and continues to deny any and all accusations of wrongdoing,” said Kase, calling the allegations baseless and defamatory.
But the choice to keep Yacyshyn in the pulpit and the parish as the case plays out comes from Bishop William Murphy.
The Long Island bishop of 15 years is a vocal opponent of the Child Victims Act to change the statute of limitations in the sexual abuse of underage victims.
In a 2014 letter to his pastors, the bishop described the proposed law as an “annual threat” while suggesting the Catholic Church had already handled its sexual abuse problems internally.
Bill backers “should be opposed by those of us who know how effectively and permanently the church has remedied that horrific scourge,” wrote Murphy.
The Long Island diocese also has ties to state Senate Majority leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), whose GOP colleagues blocked a Monday attempt by Democrats to force a vote on the bill.
Flanagan’s former law firm represents the diocese, although his spokesman said the senator was unaware of the connection.
David Clohessy, national director for the watchdog group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Murphy’s reputation for dragging his feet in such cases was well known.
“He’s awful,” said Clohessy. “He was one of (Bernard) Cardinal Law’s top deputies in Boston” — home to the infamous church sex abuse coverup depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.”
The two pending lawsuits charge the diocese is a “public nuisance,” alleging there’s a history of covering up sexual abuse by priests and allowing child molesters to live freely in the community.
While the plaintiffs’ lawsuits are unaffected by New York’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, attorney Mike Reck says the current law still damaged his clients.
The existing parameters, with a cutoff age of 23 for filing civil suits or criminal charges, allowed the archdiocese to maintain its secrets about sexual abuse.
“The statute of limitations enables the diocese . . . to continue a pattern of practice that keeps secret the identities and whereabouts of abusers,” said Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Minnesota law firm that has represented thousands of sex abuse victims.
The lawsuits cite a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report on sexual abuse that concluded the diocese suppressed allegations of vile behavior to run out the statute of limitations.
The grand jury said the diocese protected at least 58 predator priests despite what the prosecutor called “overwhelming evidence that (they) were committing crimes against children.”
In court papers filed in Nassau County court earlier this month, 20-year-old Sean Kiefaber claimed Yacyshyn abused him between 2002 and 2004.
Yacyshyn was a priest at St. Francis of Assisi in Greenlawn, L.I., according to the lawsuit, which names the diocese and the parish as defendants. Kiefaber was under the age of 10 when the priest abused him, the lawsuit says.
In December, a judge permitted a similar lawsuit filed in January 2015 by alleged Yacyshyn victim Kaitlyn Monaghan, 21, to proceed. That suit claims Yacyshyn abused Monaghan in 2003 when she was 8, around the time of her First Communion.
A spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said police launched a criminal investigation three years ago in the Kiefaber case — and filed no criminal charges.
The Monaghan case remains under investigation by the county police’s Special Victims Unit, said spokesman Robert Clifford added.
Diocesean spokesman Sean Dolan declined to say how the diocese determines when sex abuse allegations are “credible.”
An advocate for sex abuse victims said there is no set standard for determining culpability or discipline.
“It is up to the bishop’s discretion,” said Ann Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org. “Murphy has a history of being incredibly tolerant of abusive priests.”