GARY — Two former La Porte County priests are among 10 listed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary who were “found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors.”
The list was released Tuesday, part of Bishop Donald Hying’s response to allegations against a Pennsylvania-based priest who taught at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond in the 1960s.
Rev. Raymond Lukac was transferred to the Diocese of Gary after being accused of sexual misconduct in Pennsylvania. He was asked to leave the Diocese of Gary two years later for the same reason.
Hying said a new allegation was made through the Diocese of Gary against Lukac in 2012, but it could not be substantiated.
“After a process of due diligence and careful investigation, the (Diocesan Review) Board concluded that there was insufficient evidence to affirm credibility,” the bishop said. “All steps outlined in the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People were followed.”
Lukac is not included on the Diocese of Gary’s list, which names three living and seven deceased former priests.
Among the living are Richard Emerson, former pastor of Notre Dame Catholic Church and School in Michigan City, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in La Porte; and Terrence Chase, former pastor of Queen of All Saints Church and School in Michigan City.
Emerson was ordained in 1978 and laicized – removed from the priesthood – in 2006. He was pastor at Notre Dame from July 2003 to December 2004, resigning in late 2005 as the apparent result of sexual abuse allegations.
Throughout his priesthood, Emerson was the subject of what the diocese calls four credible accusations.
He served as a priest in Florida from 1986-91, but Orlando Bishop Norbert Dorsey requested he be moved back to his home diocese in Gary in 1991, claiming Emerson had been “giving inappropriate attention to two teen sons of a particular family, especially the 15-year-old.”
In 2004, Gary Bishop Dale Melczek recommended Emerson be removed from the priesthood in a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Melczek wrote that several priests and lay people had expressed concerns about Emerson having inappropriate relationships with minor boys since 1992. He later said sexual abuse was never explicitly reported.
In one instance in 2004, three women from St. Thomas More Parish in Munster accused Emerson of engaging in inappropriate conduct with a boy. Melczek intended to take the accusation to judicial trial, but never got that far because Emerson applied for laicization.
In 2005, a Florida man filed a lawsuit alleging Emerson molested him when he was between the ages of 11-18. Then in 2008, a 16-year-old boy who knew Emerson from St. Thomas More accused the former priest of abusing him in White County, where Emerson had a home near Monticello. And in 2010, another Florida man accused Emerson in a lawsuit of molesting him when he was an altar server between 1987-89.
In addition to Notre Dame and St. Thomas More, Emerson served in Northwest Indiana at St. Joseph’s in La Porte, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, Hoosier Boys’ Town of Indiana (now Campagna Academy) in Schererville, and Assumption in East Chicago.
Chase, known locally as “Father Terry,” was ordained in the 1980s and laicized in 2016. He was the pastor of Queen of All Saints from 2003-10.
The sole accusation against him stems from a 1991 incident when he was associate pastor at St. Patrick Church in Chesterton. The alleged victim’s age and gender were never released. He was placed on administrative leave after the complaint was filed in 2010, and released a statement denying the allegation.
“I do not know why these accusations were leveled against me,” Chase wrote. “Regardless, the process the Diocese has in place for investigating the allegations has progressed to the point where I have been placed on administrative leave from my responsibilities. I have cooperated with the process and plan to continue participating in the process in order to bring this inquiry to its appropriate resolution. Meanwhile, to the many friends, family, parishioners and others who are part of my life, you will be in my prayers and I trust that in turn, you will keep me in your prayers.”
Deacon Mark Plaiss said in 2010 that a claim found to be credible “does not mean he is guilty – just that it’s not a frivolous claim.”
It appears no criminal charges were filed against Chase or Emerson in relation to allegations against them in Indiana.
Representatives from QAS and Notre Dame were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
In his statement, Hying wrote: “Our local Church shares in the universal sadness and anger regarding the recent reports of sexual abuse by clergy. While we continue to pray for all abuse victims, we also resolutely commit ourselves to zealous vigilance to ensure the protection of all our children, youth and vulnerable adults.
“The crimes and sins of priest perpetrators and the bishops who covered up their wrongdoing continue to cast horrible shadows of pain, suffering and distrust, both in the lives which have been shattered by the abuse as well as all members in the Church. We pray that this painful process of shedding light on these horrible crimes will produce greater accountability, transparency and vigilance in all levels of the Church.”
Information about how to report allegations and how to contact a victim assistance coordinator are available on the Gary Diocese’s website at dcgary.org.
Diocese names predator priests
The following former priests were named by the Diocese of Gary as having been “found guilty of credible actions of sexual molestation of minors.”
n Richard Emerson: 4 credible allegations; laicized July 30, 2006
n Stanley Staniszewski: 2 credible allegations; left diocese Oct. 20, 1983; removed from public ministry and died April 2, 2016
n Don Grass: 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry in 2004 and no longer allowed to present himself as a priest; died July 2, 2010
n Terrence Chase: 1 credible allegation; removed from public ministry and laicized Jan. 4, 2016
n George Kavungal, CMI: 6 credible allegations; last known to be in India; removed from public ministry
n Ambrose McGinnity: 6 credible allegations; removed from public ministry in 1993; died Feb. 27, 2000
n Stephen Varga: 1 credible allegation; laicized 1970; died July 12, 2006
n Louis Jeziorski: 3 credible allegations; died April 6, 1973
n Joseph Buczyna: 1 credible allegation; died Jan. 12, 1976
n Julian Jercha: 3 credible allegations; died June 27, 1987
Hying on allegations against Pope
Bishop Donald J. Hying issued a statement Wednesday in response to Archbishop Carlo Vigano’s assertion that Pope Francis not only knew about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s status as a “sexual predator,” but lifted the restrictions Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick.
“These are grave charges. Clearly these assertions must be investigated and shown either true or false,” Hying says in his statement. He implores Catholics not to lose hope as a result of “the sexual abuse crisis within the Church,” and to continue “striving to live the fundamental mission of the Gospel” in their daily lives.
“Those who have committed crimes of abuse and those who facilitated such crimes must be held accountable. This is an absolute necessity if the Church is going to regain trust and move forward in the mission of Christ,” Hying writes. “… As I have said before if you are thinking of giving up on the Church, remember that the Church is us. Speak to your pastor or another parish leader, reach out to me, if you are struggling.”