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Saturday, April 26, 2003



Vatican upholds
isle priest’s removal

An appeal over the action
stemming from sex charges is rejected


A Vatican agency has upheld Honolulu Catholic Bishop Francis DiLorenzo's action last year to remove a Hawaii priest from duty because of two allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith denied an appeal last month by the Rev. Joseph Bukoski, who had claimed that he was not given his rights to due process under canon law and diocesan policy.

"They refused Father Bukoski's appeal," said the Rev. Gary Secor, diocesan vicar for clergy. "They didn't ask the bishop to reconsider his decision."

The reply from Rome addressed the bishop's authority to control who works in his diocese and the process followed in denying the Kauai-born priest "faculties" to function as a priest here.

The Vatican agency "knew the content of the allegations," said Secor, chairman of the eight-member Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct that investigates complaints and advises the bishop. He said that there is a requirement that such accusations be reported to Rome, an initiative taken in response to the scandal of sexual abuse and cover-up that rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America last year.

Bukoski, 50, could not be reached yesterday for comment. He earlier denied the allegations, both of which dated back more than 20 years. The accusers were not identified and details were not revealed.

Bukoski filed the appeal after he was removed last May as pastor of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina, on the basis of the first complaint.

He said he was not given an opportunity to respond to the accusation and that action was taken before results were in from a psychological evaluation he underwent at a Seattle clinic.

DiLorenzo received a second complaint that was investigated by the advisory panel.

He notified Bukoski in an Aug. 1 letter that he is "canonically removed" from serving as a priest here.

Since then, Bukoski has lived at the Kaneohe headquarters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious order that staffs several Hawaii parishes.

Bukoski was ordained in 1979 and served as associate pastor of St. Patrick Church for four years. He served as a canon lawyer in the diocese tribunal office and was elected twice to be provincial head of the Sacred Hearts here. He was pastor of the Maui church for four years.

The diocese will not investigate further nor take any further action, said its spokesman Patrick Downes.

"He is still a priest and still a member of the Sacred Hearts order," Downes said. "He is their responsibility."

Downes said Bukoski would not be allowed to perform as a priest in the United States because of the "one strike, you're out" policy for sexually abusive priests adopted last June by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But each Catholic bishop is autonomous, so the American policy would not bind foreign bishops.

The bishop has since removed another priest from duty here because of a sexual abuse allegation.

In January he removed the Rev. Roberto Batoon, 57, as pastoral administrator of the Molokai Catholic Community, a cluster of three churches.

The charge arose from Batoon's past assignment in his home diocese in Laoag, the Philippines.

He was ordered to return there, and nothing further has been heard here, Downes said.

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