A Byzantine Catholic diocese in Ohio gave notice that Father Basil Hutsko, who had been reportedly attacked and seriously injured at his parish in August, has been placed on administrative leave. According to a statement from the diocese, Hutsko “has been placed on administrative leave” because of a “credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a minor” that happened 35 years ago. Hutsko was interviewed by Bishop Milan Lach, who presides over the diocese, and found that the accusation is credible. The diocesan statement warned that while the accusation is credible, there has been no finding of guilt in the matter.

Hutsko denies the accusation. While he is on administrative leave, he will not be able to function as a Catholic priest anywhere. He previously served at various Byzantine Catholic parishes in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The Byzantine Catholic Church is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in communion with Pope Francis and is one of the several such communions that follows the spirituality and liturgy of Eastern Christianity.

According to the diocese, one of the members of the priest’s family that the supposed attack on August 20 did not occur. The FBI was investigating the incident that occurred at St. Michael Byzantine Catholic parish in Merrillville, Indiana. According to reports, the 64-year-old Hutsko was knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant while the priest was preparing for a liturgy in side the parish church. Following the complaint to local police, the case was forwarded to the FBI because the attack was categorized as a hate crime. Hutsko apparently suffered serious injuries. He told police that the attacker shouted “This is for the kids,” before assailing him. First-responders attended Hutsko at the scene before he was taken to a local hospital for treatment. 

On August 25, Bishop Lach read a statement to St. Michael parishioners during Saturday evening services to update them about Hutsko’s condition and told them that the abuse complaint against the priest in 2004 was not credible. The bishop’s letter stated that a woman alleged that year Hutsko had abused her when she was a child between 1979 and 1983. Her identity and the location of the allegation were not disclosed. Once the allegation was made in 2004, church authorities hired a retired FBI agent to investigate, according to the letter. The “eparchy’s independent review board” found there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing, as reported by Horizons newspaper, which is published by the diocese. “Father Basil, therefore, should not be deemed guilty of any allegations, and he remains a priest in good standing in the Eparchy of Parma,” the newspaper reported the letter said.

It is not known if the woman’s allegation was referred to law enforcement. police. Hutsko’s brother reportedly called the 2004 allegation a “false accusation.”

Bishop Lach told parishioners that reports of sex abuse allegedly committed by Catholic clergy is “devastating.” In his letter, Lach said, “Clergy conduct, including that of bishops, underlying the sex abuse scandal is inexcusable and, as Bishop of the Church, I do not condone the Church’s failure to properly address and respond to allegations of sexual abuse,” according to Horizons. “Nevertheless, neither the underlying immoral behavior nor the Church’s inadequate response justifies the attack on Father Basil. The violence against Father Basil is reprehensible.”

Bishop Lach is a native of Slovakia, having been raised his see by Pope Francis in June of this year. He oversees what is known officially as the Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma, which oversees Byzantine Catholic churches in 12 Midwestern states, including Indiana. It is affiliated with but not under the local Roman Catholic dioceses. 

Hutsko is a native of Whiting, Indiana, and was ordained in 1979 along with his twin brother. 

Here follows the official statement:

Father Basil Hutsko, a priest of the Eparchy of Parma, has been placed on administrative leave in response to a credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a minor that allegedly occurred 35 years ago. Though Father Basil Hutsko denies the accusation, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, having heard from the priest, the Review Board, and the Promotor of Justice, has found the accusation to be credible. A finding that the accusation is credible is not a finding of guilt. Father Basil Hutsko has been placed on administrative leave. While on administrative leave, Father Basil Hutsko is unable to function in any capacity as a priest anywhere. 

Also the Eparchy of Parma has recently verified with a member of Father Basil Hutsko’s immediate family that the incident Father Basil Hutsko reported on Aug. 20, 2018, did not occur. 

Father Basil Hutsko previously served at: St. Mary, Cleveland, Ohio; St. Barbara, Dayton, Ohio; St. Basil, Sterling Heights, Michigan; St. Mary, Marblehead, Ohio; St. Michael, Merrillville, Indiana.

The Eparchy of Parma is committed to protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse. We are deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to actions of some members of the clergy.    

 Any person with information or those just seeking help can reach our Victim Assistance Coordinator, Dr. Sharon Petrus, at (330) 958-9630.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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