Accused Maui priest
removed permanently

The bishop removes the
Rev. Joseph Bukoski
after sex abuse allegations

By Mary Adamski

A Catholic priest who was suspended from duty in May after being accused of sexually abusing a child has been permanently removed as pastor of Maria Lanakila Church on Maui.

Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo notified the Rev. Joseph Bukoski in a letter that effectively removed the Kauai-born priest from public ministry in the islands.

This is the first action taken against a priest in Hawaii in the wake of the nationwide church sex-abuse scandal.

"The letter tells him he is removed as pastor under canon law that allows bishop to remove a priest," diocesan spokesman Patrick Downes said today.

"Essentially, it is because of the accumulation of evidence. The second allegation strengthened the previous recommendation of standing committee."

Bukoski could not be reached for comment today.

While on administrative leave as the first allegation was investigated, Bukoski was named by a second accuser. As a result, the bishop "delayed indefinitely any decision regarding Father Bukoski's return to active duty in the diocese," according to an announcement Thursday.

No details have been released about either accusation. One person came forward in April claiming sexual abuse while the priest served at St. Patrick Church in Honolulu 20 years ago. A second person called church authorities in May about an alleged incident while Bukoski was a seminarian 25 years ago.

Bukoski has appealed to the Vatican to intervene, claiming that his due process rights under canon law and diocesan policy were not followed. He denied the first accusation earlier and said Friday that he had not been given an opportunity to respond to the second person's accusation.

Bukoski, 49, is a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. He was pastor of the Maui parish for four years and previously served as judicial vicar, a canon law advisor, for the Honolulu diocese. He is currently living at the Sacred Hearts Center in Kaneohe.

Bukoski complied with a recommendation by the diocesan Standing Committee for Sexual Misconduct and entered a Seattle clinic for psychological evaluation in June. The report from Therapy and Renewal Associates was not expected until mid-August, according to the Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, provincial of the Sacred Hearts.

Guerreiro is at a Philadelphia conference this week where officials of religious orders for men are being briefed about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' new sex abuse policy. He could not be reached for comment.

The American bishops agreed in June to bar sexually abusive clergy from any work for the church but stopped short of recommending that the Vatican remove them from the priesthood.

Maria Lanakila Church is one of 11 Hawaii parishes operated by priests of the Sacred Hearts religious order. The religious organization assigns men from its ranks to those churches. However, under church law, it is the bishop of each diocese who determines whether a priest may or may not serve in his diocese.

More than 1,000 parishioners and other supporters signed a petition calling for Bukoski's return as pastor.

Bukoski said Friday that he has appealed to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. He said his due process has been violated contrary to church law and diocesan policy.

Jan Pasamonte, Maria Lanakila Church's financial officer, lashed out against the diocese for publicizing the second allegation. She charged that the bishop was "very upset and unnerved" by the appeal to Rome, filed last month, and that he retaliated by publicizing the second accusation before the legal process was observed.

"To date, Father Bukoski has not been contacted for his statement, or given due process of law, namely self-defense. Since diocesan policy was not followed, this statement should not have been released," Pasamonte said in a written media statement.

Once Bukoski was put on administrative leave from the Maui parish, it meant that he may not function in a public capacity as a priest in this diocese, said diocesan spokesman Downes.

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