Priest Apologizes to Sex Abuse Victim

By Curtis Lum
Honolulu Advertiser
November 9, 2005

A Catholic priest and the order that employs him yesterday apologized to a man who accused the priest of sexually abusing him nearly 30 years ago.

"I am relieved that the truth is now out," said Eugene Saulibio, who said he was 15 when the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III gave him drugs and alcohol and then molested him in the summer of 1976.

The apology was part of a settlement reached yesterday in a lawsuit filed by Saulibio in 2003 against Bukoski and The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts.

Saulibio also alleged that The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts disregarded knowledge of the priest's sexually inappropriate behavior and continued to employ him. Saulibio, 44, was a student at Saint Louis School at the time.

Bukoski, who has negligible assets, has agreed to pay Saulibio $50 a month for the next 10 years, said Margery Bronster, one of Saulibio's attorneys. The amount of damages that The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts will pay was not disclosed.

In addition to the damages, Bukoski will not be allowed to work with children as part of his job, Bronster said. He also can no longer minister publicly, said Mark Bernstein, another of Saulibio's attorneys.

Saulibio said he was relieved and elated by the settlement.

"When I was 15 years old, Father Bukoski gave me drugs and alcohol, waited until I passed out and sexually assaulted me," Saulibio said. "I am relieved that the truth is now out. He caused a lot of harm to me and my family and a lot of the Catholic faithful. It's really important that everybody start healing, not only me and my family, but all Catholics."

Both sides were prepared to go to trial this week, but they met on Monday and yesterday morning and hammered out a deal. The settlement was announced in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Bert Ayabe.

Saulibio said he was not disappointed that the case never went to trial.

"From the beginning, the goal was to protect people like them behind there," he said, pointing to a group of children, "so that they don't have to go through what I went through, and that people know the truth."

Initially, Bukoski denied any wrongdoing. But in a letter to Saulibio, Bukoski apologized for his actions.

"I write you to apologize for what I did to you, and for the pain you have suffered as a result of my actions in the summer of 1976 and my phone call to you in 2002. I am truly sorry for all you have gone through and suffered as a result of my actions. I should have apologized much sooner."

Bukoski could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

Bronster explained that the phone call preceded the filing of the lawsuit by a year and further upset Saulibio.

"He called Gene Saulibio on his private cell phone number, which he had gotten from The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts, and taunted him about what had occurred back in 1976," Bronster said. "What happened in 2002 really brought forward a lot of the pain and suffering that Eugene had."

Through its attorney, Paul Schraff, The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts also apologized to Saulibio.

"The Fathers of The Sacred Hearts sincerely apologize for the sexual abuse suffered by Eugene Saulibio while at our seminary and for all the harm we caused Eugene Saulibio after he came forward to help us appreciate what had happened," Schraff read in court. "We also apologize to the Saulibio family, the members of Maria Lanakila Parish, and all Catholics for not stepping in earlier and putting a stop to this."

When the lawsuit was filed, Bukoski was the pastor at the Maria Lanakila church in Lahaina. He has since returned to The Fathers of the Sacred Hearts in Kane'ohe.

Schraff declined further comment.

Despite the ordeal, Saulibio, a financial adviser, said he remains a faithful Catholic.

"My kids go to Catholic school. We say grace before every meal, make the sign of the cross. Honestly, I've had a hard time going to church, but I feel that now with all this behind me I can finally start to do that again," Saulibio said. "I still have belief and faith in the Catholic Church. It's just that some of the people have tainted it a little bit."

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