A Catholic priest who was brutally beaten in his church reported his unidentified attacker said, “This is for all the kids,” before he beat him until he was unconscious.
Rev. Basil Hutsko, 64, of St. Michael’s Byzantine Church in Merrillville, Indiana was attacked from behind by a man who reportedly “grabbed him, choked him and threw him to the ground and knocked him unconscious,” said Rev. Thomas Loya, according to WGN.
The attack has been turned over to the FBI and is to be investigated as a hate crime, says the news report.
Loya said Hutsko reported the unidentified assailant “was wearing gloves.”
Hutsko said he presumed the man’s statement, “This is for all the kids,” was a reference to the recently released Pennsylvania grand jury report that alleged sex abuse of minors by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years.
Loya said Hutsko had never been accused of sex abuse.
“He’s a very dedicated priest and hardworking and in good standing. It’s just a random act of an innocent priest,” Loya said.
WGN reports it discovered a blog post about the priest’s attack “in which the blogger appears to be encouraging his followers to take matters into their own hands and ‘beat up some priests.’”
Hutsko was hospitalized after the attack. According to the Chicago Tribune, Commander Jeff Rice, a Merrillville police spokesman, said the priest was “definitely bruised and banged up.”
Two other priests from the area said Hutsko is a hard-working priest.
“He’s a good priest and like everybody said, he’s not accused of anything,” the Rev. Steven Koplinka, of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish in Munster, reportedly said. “Why attack him?”
“It’s just like they’re targeting the wrong guys, you know?” Koplinka added. “The rest of us try our best to be good priests and unfortunately this happened.”
The Tribune reports:
The only priest in the grand jury report with ties to Northwest Indiana was the Rev. Raymond Lukac, who served with the Diocese of Gary for a few years in the 1960s and briefly taught at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond. Hutsko was not named in the report.
“Father Basil is just such a hardworking priest for his people,” Rev. Andrew Summerson said, observing Hutsko’s visits to the sick and his other ministerial activities. “He’s up at four, five every morning at the grind.”
“It’s a real tragedy certainly what’s going on in a national level,” he continued. “There’s a lot of sins of our past. We have to take responsibility for it. We can’t pretend it’s not our problem. At the same time, it’s crushing to bear the weight of hatred. There’s justice on the one hand and there’s unbridled hatred on the other hand.”