Saturday, July 30, 2005

Accused deacon led
church out of debt

The man charged with sexual assault
has helped Maui's St. Ann Church grow

WAILUKU » James Ronald Gonsalves was the exception among about 50 deacons in the Catholic Diocese of Hawaii.

While most deacons are volunteers, he was hired six years ago to be a full-time paid administrator for a parish on Maui and gained praise for bringing St. Ann Church in Waihee out of debt and more than doubling its membership.

"By all measures he was doing a great job," said diocesan spokesman Patrick Downes.

Recent allegations that Gonsalves repeatedly sexually assaulted a boy over three years have stunned many parishioners who valued his friendship and leadership. And the accusations have once again brought attention to the conduct of clergy in Hawaii -- a diocese where at least three other priests have been accused of molesting male youths.

Gonsalves, 68, pleaded not guilty to 62 charges related to the sexual assault of a boy between June 2003 and last month while the deacon was employed at St. Ann. The charges included 30 counts of first-degree sexual assault, which under Hawaii law means forced sexual penetration. The boy was 12 years old when the alleged acts began.

Gonsalves is expected to appear in Maui Circuit Court on Monday to seek a reduction in his bail of $790,000.

Judge Joel August, who was to preside over the bail hearing yesterday, recused himself from the case to avoid the appearance of any potential conflict of interest, Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said.

Before becoming a judge, August was a law partner with Gonsalves' defense attorney, Philip Lowenthal.

Although he recused himself yesterday, August sealed the indictment on Thursday, citing concerns about revealing the identity of the alleged victim.

The charges against Gonsalves, including alleged sexual acts upon the boy in St. Ann Church, have shocked the Maui Catholic community, where he was known for being a dedicated and able administrator.

The accusations have also drawn attention again to the sexual conduct of Catholic clergy in Hawaii, where three clergymen have been accused in lawsuits of molesting male youths.

The Rev. Joseph Bukoski and Brother Dominic Stone, both of the Congregation of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, were named as defendants in a 2003 lawsuit by a former altar boy at St. Patrick's Church in Kaimuki who alleged he was sexually abused by the two men in the 1970s. In a separate lawsuit in 2003, Bukoski was accused of sexual assaulting another boy in 1976.

Joseph Bukoski was removed from his parish at Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina in 2003, and Stone is retired and no longer is a priest.

In another suit, two men accused the Rev. Roberto DeOtero of kissing the boys and touching their genitals while they were altar boys at St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi in 1986. Then-Bishop Frances DiLorenzo removed DeOtero from public ministry in 1993 because of another complaint involving sexual misconduct with a minor.

Downes said the church was unaware until last month of any complaints against Gonsalves. He said most deacons are volunteers who are married and either retired or working at full-time jobs in the community.

While a visiting priest presided over conducting Mass and receiving confessions, deacon Gonsalves was able to perform the rites at weddings, funerals and baptisms.

Church members and acquaintances said Gonsalves taught them how to bake sweet bread and restored the financial health of St. Ann Church. Gonsalves also taught Christ the King Church how to bake sweet bread for their sales.

"He's a good friend of mine, and it's unfortunate that this has happened," said Hiram Haupu, a deacon at St. Anthony's Church since 2001.

Audrey Reed Rocha, who has known Gonsalves for more than 10 years, said: "In this country, at least you're innocent until proven guilty, and I would not prejudge the man. ... If the allegations are true, I'm sorry for everyone, including the child."

The Catholic Church in Hawaii

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