Church may look into ex-Big Isle priest
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Catholic Church officials say they are willing to look into allegations that a former Big Island priest molested boys some four decades ago, even though it is too late for criminal charges to be filed.
Glenn Gravela, a 50-year-old former altar boy, said he wants an apology from church officials for allegedly being sexually assaulted by a priest at Sacred Heart Church in Na'alehu when he was a fifth-grader.
Big Island police said yesterday that two others have filed reports with similar allegations against the priest since Gravela's story was published in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald Sunday.
The priest, the Rev. James A. Jackson, 84, is "feeble" and in poor health, and is receiving nursing care in a New York home for retired Maryknoll missionaries, according to the New York-based Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. A spokeswoman for the religious order said that while Jackson remembers the family, he denies the allegations.
Gravela, an unemployed hotel and sugar worker, said the recent publicity surrounding sexual misconduct by priests caused him to break his silence, and last month he reported the alleged incidents to Big Island police. The matter was turned over to the Hawai'i County prosecutor's office, which determined it was too late to prosecute because of the statute of limitations.
Gravela said the recent revelations about sexual abuse among Catholic clergy rekindled old memories and sparked nightmares and depression. He started attending therapy and began searching for others who may have had the same experience.
Big Island police Capt. James Day said yesterday that two others this week reported alleged incidents involving the same priest, one a case of sexual assault and the other an attempted sexual assault.
While prosecutors say they can't file charges because of the statute of limitations, they are encouraging alleged victims to call police and to seek counseling.
Marybeth Christie, media relations director for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, said Jackson worked in Hawai'i from 1948 to 1992 and was at Sacred Heart Church from about 1960 to 1964.
Maryknoll officials were surprised to hear of the allegations, she said, because they had recently reviewed the priest's file and found no complaints of that nature. She said that after hearing of Gravela's claims, Jackson's file was reviewed again by both the order and the Diocese of Honolulu, and there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Still, the order wants to respond to the complaints, she said. "Our first priority is the wellness of the victim. It is absolutely our commitment to help him,'' she said.
After being notified by the Diocese of Honolulu, a Maryknoll official called Gravela. But he told the official he wasn't ready to discuss it with him. He said he wants to hear from other possible victims and then meet church officials face-to-face for an apology. He also wants the church to offer counseling and therapy to those who may have been sexually abused.
"We're very concerned,'' Christie said. "We want to reach out, to offer any pastoral support and counseling.''
Although Gravela said a Honolulu church official told him it wasn't the diocese's responsibility to look into the complaint, Patrick Downes, spokesman for the diocese, said the church remains open to discussions regarding the allegations.
Meanwhile, another Hawai'i priest accused of sexual assault, the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III of Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina, Maui, has returned to the Islands following professional evaluation in Seattle last week. Details of the allegations against Bukoski have not been released.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo will determine whether he will work in a Hawai'i parish again, Downes said. Results of the evaluation are supposed to be available to the diocese in about a week, he said.
Reach Timothy Hurley at email@example.com or (808) 244-4880.