Maui Priest Removed from Job

By Gordon Mike
Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, HI)
May 20, 2002

The pastor of a Catholic church on Maui was removed from his duties last week after church officials received allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. Joseph Bukoski III, a 49-year-old priest originally from Kauai, was removed early last week, said Patrick Downes, a spokesman for the Diocese of Honolulu.

Bukoski was pastor of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina and is a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious order. The church also operates a school in Lahaina and a mission in Kapalua. It is one of the biggest parishes on Maui.

The alleged misconduct occurred in Honolulu and the victim, who came forward in April, is an adult now, Downes said. He would not say if the victim is a man or woman.

Officials say Bukoski has denied the allegations.

Bukoski could not be reached for comment today. Last week, he told a Maui newspaper that he thought the media was "offensive" by "hounding" priests accused of misconduct.

The removal comes as Catholic leaders across the world confront a growing tide of sexual misconduct complaints against priests.

Downes said the allegations against Bukoski are one of three separate cases in Hawaii - each one at least 20 years old - that are being investigated by church officials. Currently, Bukoski is the only active Hawaii priest to be removed from his job because of a sexual misconduct complaint.

No details about the alleged misconduct were released. Bukoski was an associate pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Kaimuk? from 1979 to 1985. It was his first assignment after he was ordained in 1979.

The decision to remove Bukoski was made by Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, who said there has been no final determination of guilt or innocence.

DiLorenzo made his decision, however, after receiving a unanimous recommendation from the Diocesan Standing Committee For Sexual Misconduct. The committee also recommended that Bukoski undergo "professional evaluation and treatment."

Bukoski was placed on administrative leave and placed under the supervision of his religious order.

The church will not pursue criminal action because the misconduct allegedly occurred so long ago, Downes said. It would be up to the victim to make any complaint to police.

"I don't know the motivation, why this person came forward now," Downes said. "There has been a great big stirring out there, nationwide."

The Very Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, provincial for the Sacred Hearts order in Hawaii, informed Bukoski of the decision but said he has not met with him. The two men have known each other since they were in high school, Guerreiro said.

"I was under the ideal assumption that this would never occur in the Islands," Guerreiro said. "Obviously, I was wrong."

Bukoski will be under Guerreiro's supervision at the order's Kaneohe living quarters and offices.

The decision was a shock to Bukoski, Guerreiro said.

"I don't think he knew it was coming," Guerreiro said. "He knew that an allegation had been made. He might have had an indication but he was in shock when I told him this."

Guerreiro said he will have Bukoski interviewed by psychiatrists and psychologists at St. Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, Md.

"They handle behavioral problems within the clergy," he said. "They will do the evaluation and they will let me know if therapy is necessary. I am crossing each bridge as I get to it."

No decision on Bukoski's future in the church will be made until after the evaluation, he said.

"I know some opinions are that this is it, he will never work again," Guerreiro said. "I don't have that opinion yet. I want to see the evaluation before I make that determination."

Under his current restrictions, Bukoski is not allowed to hear confessions or celebrate Mass for the public, but can do so within the order.

Parishioners were told about Bukoski's removal in a statement read at Masses Saturday and yesterday at Maria Lanakila Church and its mission. A meeting to discuss the matter with parishioners will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Maria Lanakila Church.

The Rev. William Petrie, acting pastor of the church, said the congregation appears to back Bukoski. Parishioners expressed surprise when they got the news.

"It was sort of very emotional because everyone has a great love for Father Joe," Petrie said. "As people were greeted after Mass you get the reaction and it was one of complete support for Father Joe. And there were sentiments of hope that he will return."


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