Priest in Seneca Placed on Leave

By Jay Tokasz
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
June 26, 2002

A new national policy for dealing with priests who sexually abuse children guided the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester's decision Tuesday to place a Seneca County pastor on administrative leave.

The Rev. David N. Gramkee celebrated his final Mass on Monday at St. Patrick Church in Seneca Falls before taking the leave for a year.

During that time, he won't be able to wear priestly clothing, perform the duties of a priest or live at the parish or any other diocesan property.

Diocesan officials wouldn't comment on what would happen after the leave expires.

According to the diocese, Gramkee, 62, was accused of sexually abusing a girl in her late teens in the 1970s. The priest, in a statement to parishioners, described the situation as "an allegation of clerical misconduct in 1980 with a young woman."

The alleged abuse first came to the diocese's attention in 1993. A panel of lay professionals at that time recommended that Gramkee seek counseling but be allowed to continue in ministry because there were no other allegations of abuse.

However, in March and in May, the victim contacted the diocese and provided new information regarding the time of the alleged abuse and her age at the time.

"When it doesn't involve a minor, there's a different light on that. It's still a violation of vows, but it's not criminal sexual abuse," said diocesan spokesman Michael Tedesco.

Tedesco acknowledged a discrepancy between Gramkee's and the alleged victim's version of when the incident took place.

Ordained in 1966, Gramkee was serving as associate pastor of St. Louis Church in Pittsford from 1975 to 1979, when he was named chaplain of Elmira Correctional Facility. He served there until 1982, when he was appointed pastor of St. John the Baptist and St. Cecilia in Elmira.

Earlier this month, the nation's nearly 300 Catholic bishops approved a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" that calls for the removal of a priest from ministry "for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor - past, present or future."

Gramkee requested the leave, said the Rev. Daniel J. Condon, diocesan chancellor.

In his statement, Gramkee said that he "thought this was all cleared up" in 1993. "Then came the revelations of 2002 and a renewed emphasis on the 22-year-old allegations."

Some St. Patrick parishioners said the diocese had gone too far in removing Gramkee.

"I do not believe he did anything wrong. I've known that man for 10 years and I'm very proud to call him a close personal friend," said Bill Leonard, a cook at the rectory.

Sharon Baldwin, a cook and housekeeper at the rectory, called Gramkee "one of the best priests I have ever met in my life. . . . He doesn't deserve this."

Gramkee is the eighth priest working in the Diocese of Rochester to be suspended or removed from ministry since April.

Three other parish pastors were removed in May, and the diocese on Tuesday announced their replacements.

The Rev. Christopher E. Linsler is the new pastor of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads, Chemung County. At St. Paul in Webster, the Rev. Stanley Kacprzak is the new pastor. And the Rev. Daniel F. Holland will take over as pastor of St. Pius X in Chili in July.


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