Priest Accused of Abuse before
Lawyer: He Was Removed from Public Ministry
By Amy Driscoll and Jay Weaver
May 17, 2002
A former Broward County priest being sued by two ex-altar boys over sex-abuse allegations was accused of sexual misconduct in 1999 and removed from public ministry, according to a lawyer for the priest's religious order.
The Rev. Ronald John Luka, named Monday in a lawsuit filed by two former altar boys at St. Helen Catholic School in Lauderdale Lakes, had previously been the subject of "credible allegations" serious enough to end his public service, said attorney Richard Leamy.
"The allegations that surfaced in 1999 reached back more than 20 years" in New York, Leamy said. He said the alleged victims requested confidentiality.
Though Luka, 65, was assigned to the Claretian mission house in the Chicago area through much of the 1980s and '90s, he was "an itinerant preacher," often roaming the East Coast, Leamy said.
After learning of the allegations in 1999, the Claretian Missionaries sent the priest to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland for a 30-day in-patient program, Leamy said. St. Luke's is a church-sponsored treatment center for priests.
"After evaluation, we determined that he should be permanently removed from public ministry," Leamy said.
He said the order now has Luka in "a custodial situation" at the Wounded Brothers Project in Robertsville, Mo., a halfway house for priests dealing with pedophilia and drug or alcohol abuse. "He's under 24-hour supervision," Leamy said.
On Monday, two former altar boys accused Luka of repeatedly molesting them from 1976 through 1978.
Stephen Calvert and Scott Melanson, both 37, filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Luka and the Miami archdiocese, which runs the school where Luka worked.
The suit said the abuse began when the boys were 12. It continued for nearly three years, culminating in a summer trip across the country where Luka allegedly forced the boys to watch behavior that included "stripping, dancing naked and self-stimulation," the suit said.
One of the boys' parents reported Luka to the Rev. Patrick J. Murnane, then-pastor of St. Helen. Murnane "promised to take appropriate action," the suit says. Luka was gone by the fall of 1978.
The 1979 Official Catholic Directory listed Luka at St. Matthew Church in Hallandale, and Luka also was involved in church retreats throughout the archdiocese, according to St. Matthew's then-pastor, the Rev. Ronald Brohammer.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta declined to say why Luka was working at Catholic retreats in South Florida the year after complaints were made about his misconduct at St. Helen.
Leamy said the Claretians did not know of the Florida allegations until the lawsuit was filed Monday. "The order expresses their deepest sympathy to the victims if the allegations turn out to be true," he said. "It's a tragic and terrible thing."
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