Big Isle man
haunted by abuse

The Pahala resident says he
was 10 when a priest in Naalehu
sexually abused him

By Rod Thompson

PAHALA, Hawaii >> For 41 years, Big Island resident Glenn Gravela held bad memories.

Those memories of being molested by a priest when he was 10 became more insistent when stories surfaced on the mainland recently about priests molesting children, he said.

He remembered how the priest brought him and his brother to the priest's cottage 10 or 15 times, where he molested them. Gravela said his brother died in 1971.

This April, Gravela contacted the Catholic Church, reported the incidents to police and started receiving counseling.

"I still go to counseling," Gravela said. "It still hurts. I need help."

Gravela, 50, named a Maryknoll priest, now 84, living at a Maryknoll retirement home in Ossining, N.Y., as the priest who abused him.

Maryknoll spokeswoman Marybeth Christie says the priest remembers Gravela's family but denies molesting the boy. The priest served in Hawaii from 1948 to 1992, including in Naalehu, near Pahala, from 1960 to 1964.

A review of the priest's records show no complaint was ever made against him during more than four decades of service in Hawaii, Christie said.

In 1961, Gravela was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Church in Naalehu. He was the ninth child in a family of 18 children.

He said the priest came to his house at night one weekend saying he was not feeling well. Gravela's mother told an older brother to stay with the priest for the night, he said.

"My mother was a strong Catholic. No questions asked," Gravela said.

If the priest wanted something, it must be all right, Gravela said.

The next weekend when the priest came again at night, the brother refused to go, so Gravela's mother sent him with his brother, he said.

"He would strip bare naked. He would hug and kiss us while he was naked," Gravela said.

He made them "massage" his penis, then made them sleep in the bed with him, Gravela said.

At home the next day, Gravela said, the boys avoided their family. They also avoided church.

"My dad, he believed in God but he didn't go to church."

His father would go fishing on Sunday, and the boys started insisting on going with him. Eventually, the priest transferred to another part of the Big Island.

Honolulu diocese spokesman Patrick Downes confirmed that the priest was not one of four who were placed on administrative leave in the early 1990s because of allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Maryknoll Society is "extremely concerned" about Gravela's statements, Christie said.

"We want to take his allegations with the utmost seriousness," she said.

In counseling, professionals told Gravela the injury was done by an individual, not by the church.

Gravela does not accept that.

"The priest used the power he got from the church to do it," he said.

Police Capt. James Day confirmed that Gravela reported the incidents to police.

Since Gravela made his story public, three other people have called police, two reporting molestation by the same priest and another reporting a problem with a different priest, Day said.

Police turned the cases over to the prosecutor, but the statute of limitations has run out, preventing any prosecution, Day said.

Gravela said he also talked to a lawyer, who told him the case was too old and that he would have to forget about it.

"But I can't forget," Gravela said. "It really hurts more when I'm told to forget."

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