Parma eparchy says August attack didn’t happen, places priest on leave

Orthodox 2 Credit St Petersburg Theological Academy via Flickr CC BY ND 20 CNA St. Petersburg Theological Academy via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma has announced that a priest who was reportedly attacked in August has been placed on administrative leave due to a credible accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Fr. Basil Hutsko is accused of misconduct alleged to have occurred 35 years ago (or in 1983), the eparchy stated.

"Though Father Basil Hutsko denies the accusation, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, having heard from the priest, the Review Board, and the Promotor [sic] of Justice, has found the accusation to be credible," the eparchy said. "A finding that the accusation is credible is not a finding of guilt," it added.

In August, Hutsko had been reported to have been attacked at his parish. The eparchy's statement said that attack did not take take place.

The eparchy "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," the statement said.

An August statement attributed to the eparchial chancery which was widely shared on Facebook said Fr. Hutsko "was attacked and knocked unconscious" in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

That statement said the priest was choked and his head slammed to the ground, making him lose consciousness. According to the statement, the attacker said, "This is for all the kids."

Fr. Hutsko, 64, was serving as pastor of St. Michael parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary.

The August statement was signed by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, who is pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Ill.

A source close to Fr. Hutsko confirmed that the priest was hospitalized in August, but did not have additional knowledge about the incident.

Jeff Rice, spokesman for the Merrillville police, told the Chicago Tribune Fr. Hutsko had been "definitely bruised and banged up."

The police department alerted the FBI about the supposed incident.

Later in August, the eparchy said that an abuse complaint had been made against Fr. Hutsko in 2004, but it was not deemed credible. The complaint was made by a woman who said the priest had abused her as a child between 1979 and 1983.

Fr. Hutsko has also served at parishes in Cleveland, Dayton, and Marblehead, Ohio, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The Parma eparchy has also placed on administrative leave Fr. Stephen Muth, in response to a recent credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult.

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

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