Laura Ieraci | Aug 28, 2018 | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

MERRILLVILLE, Indiana - The priest who was attacked by an unknown assailant in the sacristy of St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Parish in Merrillville Aug. 20 was admitted to the hospital two days later, where he continues to recover from the assault and resulting trauma.

Bishop Milan Lach of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma in Ohio shared an update on Father Basil Hutsko in a letter read at all weekend services throughout the eparchy Aug. 25-26.

Lach read the letter personally to members of the northwest Indiana parish after the evening Divine Liturgy, Aug. 25.

Hutsko, 64, was assaulted as he prepared to celebrate morning Divine Liturgy. The assailant came up behind him, threw him to the ground and beat his head against the sacristy floor. The priest lost consciousness and never saw his assailant

.

Hutsko told investigators his attacker said, “This is for all the kids,” which they believe was a reference to the recent revelations in Pennsylvania of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

The Merrillville Police Department classified the attack as a hate crime and referred the case to the FBI, which is conducting the investigation. No suspects had been arrested as of Aug. 27.

Lach’s letter described the sex abuse scandal as “devastating for all” in the Church.

“Clergy conduct, including that of bishops, underlying the sex abuse scandal is inexcusable and, as a bishop of the Church, I do not condone the Church’s failure to properly address and respond to allegations of sexual abuse,” he said.

“Nevertheless, neither the underlying immoral behavior nor the Church’s inadequate response justifies the attack on Father Basil. The violence against Father Basil was reprehensible,” he said.

The bishop also addressed inaccuracies in some reports that followed the attack including questions about Hutsko’s history, “including whether he was ever accused of an abuse.”

“In 2004, a woman accused Father Basil of abusing her when she was a child,” the bishop’s letter said. “This abuse allegedly occurred between 1979 and 1983. The eparchy, assisted by a retired FBI agent, promptly investigated the allegations.”

He said the eparchy’s independent review board concluded “on the basis of that investigation, that the allegations were not substantiated due to insufficient evidence.”

“Father Basil, therefore, should not be deemed guilty of any allegations, and he remains a priest in good standing in the Eparchy of Parma,” the bishop said.

Lach, who came from Slovakia to serve in the eparchy in June 2017, said he only learned of the allegation after the attack.

“I am deeply troubled by any allegation of clergy abuse and take very seriously my duty to create an environment in which every person is treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

He asked the faithful to pray for Hutsko and said arrangements would be made for the pastoral care of the parish.

“No predictions can be made regarding the time needed for Father Basil’s recovery or for his return to active ministry,” he said, and updates would be provided when new information is available.

After liturgy, parishioners said they appreciated the bishop’s message of transparency and concern.

Michael Hlebasko told Horizons, the newspaper of the Eparchy of Parma, that the bishop’s initiative “to communicate and be transparent with all of us here in the parish is good.”

“I’ve been Byzantine all my life. I’ve known Father Basil since we were little kids. It’s tragic that someone would attack him in the manner that they attacked him for no reason whatsoever,” he said. “We’re a small parish here in this community and for something like this to happen, I was just shocked.”

Ieraci is the editor of Horizons, the newspaper of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma.


Teachings of Christ

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." (Proverbs 4:4 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

"'And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan' [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: `Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'"

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (190 AD), Fragment 34