Threats Made against 3 Priests

By Karen Henderson
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
July 18, 1990

Three priests from the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Parma who asked the pope to send a representative to investigate alleged wrongdoing by other priests have received death threats, a diocesan priest said yesterday.

The Rev. Thomas J. Loya confirmed that threats had been made on the lives of the Rev. Donald Petyo, pastor of St. Eugene Byzantine Catholic Church in Bedford, and two out-of-state priests he declined to identify when contacted yesterday by The Plain Dealer. Loya was one of 12 priests requesting the papal investigation of wrongdoing that included child molesting, drug abuse, embezzlement of church funds and homosexuality. '

The three priests who have been threatened are members of the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Parma and have provided information to investigators concerning the allegations, Loya said.

"I am afraid for the lives and health of my brother priests," Loya said.

Loya, who added that he had spoken with the priests, said the out-of-state priests lived in Colorado and Michigan. He said all of the threats occurred after the priests provided statements to investigators and lawyers involved in suits pending here and in Minnesota against two priests accused of molesting boys.

Some of the threats occurred after the three priests were questioned by a private investigator hired by Bishop Andrew Pataki to look into the allegations, he said.

Loya said the caller was male in each instance. "When they answer the telephone, he says, `Death,' and then hangs up," Loya said.

He said nuns and members of the laity who have asked the pope to send a representative also have received harassing telephone calls. Some lay church members are circulating petitions supporting a papal investigation.

Nuns who have provided information to investigators concerning alleged homosexual relationships involving priests are receiving as many as 17 telephone calls a day in which the callers hang up, Loya said. The calls began the day after the nuns were questioned by the bishop's investigator in June, he said.

A representative of the nuns confirmed the calls but declined to comment.

Loya, pastor of St. John Hungarian Church of Solon, said - Petyo received the first death threat about a year ago. The most recent threat to one of the priests occurred last week, Loya said.

Petyo has confirmed receiving the threats but has declined further comment.

The priests have given statements in lawsuits pending against the Rev. John Rebovich, 50, former pastor of St. Eugene, and the Rev. Robert Ruglovsky, 53. Ruglovsky is being sued for molesting two boys while he was pastor of a Minneapolis church. He pleaded guilty in 1987 to six counts of criminal sexual conduct for molesting six boys ages 12 to 14.

Ruglovsky also served at parishes in Cleveland, Barberton and Euclid. He said in a sworn statement taken as part of the Minnesota suit that he molested boys while at the churches in Cleveland and Barberton.

In a civil suit filed July 2 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, James Kotyk accused Rebovich, 50, of raping and molesting him in 1980 while he was an altar boy at St. Eugene. Kotyk, now 25, of Solon, is also alleging that the bishop and diocese covered up the alleged incidents after he went to them in 1984.

Saturday, Kotyk filed a criminal complaint with Bedford police, asking them to look into the allegations.

Bedford Police Chief Robert Reid said yesterday that he met with the city's police prosecutor and law director about opening a criminal investigation.

"We're researching the (six-year) statute of limitations before we go any further," Reid said. "We should know by the first of the week whether the investigation is a go."

The decision may depend on whether the statute can be waived, Reid said.


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