Byzantine Priest Who Made Up Hate Crime Ordered to Life of Penance After Abuse Allegation

Fr. Hutsko, 67, had been serving as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary, before he was placed on leave in 2018.

Byzantine priest holds a crucifix.
Byzantine priest holds a crucifix. (photo: Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

DENVER, Colo. — A Byzantine priest in Indiana has been ordered to a life of prayer and penance two years after he was placed on administrative leave for a credible accusation of sexual abuse. The priest made headlines in 2018 when he claimed to have been attacked in his parish church; a claim the eparchy said later had been fabricated.

After a period of “appropriate due process according to canon (Church) law” Fr. Basil Hutsko has been ordered to live a life of prayer and penance by Jesuit Bishop Milan Lach, of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, the eparchy said in an Aug. 17 letter posted online, that was first reported this week by the Chicago Tribune.

“A cleric who has been ordered to live a life of prayer and penance has been permanently removed from engaging in public ministry and does not live on premises belonging to the Eparchy,” the letter stated.

“He is not permitted to celebrate Divine Liturgy/Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments. He is forbidden to wear a clerical garb and present himself as a priest. He is bound in conscience to pray and offer acts of penance for those in need of healing due to the harmful actions of clergy,” the letter added.

Fr. Hutsko, 67, had been serving as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary, before he was placed on leave in 2018. He has also served at parishes in Cleveland, Dayton, and Marblehead, Ohio, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

In October 2018, the eparchy announced that Fr. Hutsko was being placed on administrative leave following a credible accusation of past sexual misconduct with a minor. At that time, the eparchy said that although Hutsko denied the accusation, it had been found to be credible.

Just two months prior, in August 2018, Fr. Hutsko had claimed that he had been “attacked and knocked unconscious” in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy. Fr. Hutsko also claimed that the attacker had said “This is for all the kids” as he assaulted him.

The attack was investigated as a hate crime, but in October 2018, when Fr. Hutsko was placed on leave, the eparchy said in a statement that it had “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 accusation against Fr. Hutsko of sexual abuse of a minor came from a woman who reported that Fr. Hutsko had abused her between the years 1979 and 1983.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the woman first came forward in 2004, though an independent review by the eparchy at the time did not find enough evidence to warrant further action.

Bishop Lach did not know of the abuse allegation against Fr. Hutsko when the priest claimed to have been attacked in August 2018, the Chicago Tribune noted, but “new facts’ about the accusation surfaced in October 2018.

“It is the same allegation,” attorney James Niehaus told the Chicago Tribune. “As a result of new information, the allegation was reviewed again and now determined to be credible.”

“The Eparchy of Parma remains committed to the protection of youth according to the Safe Environment norms given by the USCCB,” the eparchy's August 2020 letter concluded.