News event: Hilo priest accused of child sex crimes
Two ex-Damien students name him as predator
Bishop forced him to retire during 2002 abuse scandal
But cleric still travels and works with youngsters today
Holding signs and photos of themselves when they were abused, child sex abuse victims will announce that a long-time Hilo Catholic priest:
— has been accused molesting two boys, but
— continues to work for a church group that teaches music to teenagers.
They will also beg Honolulu Bishop Clarence Silva to:
— disclose why the priest was forced to retire,
— insist that the music group oust him immediately,
— personally visit every parish, school and facility where he worked reaching out to others he may have hurt.
Where: Outside of Malia Puka O Kalani Church, 326 Desha Ave in Hilo
When: Tuesday, August 21, at 11 am
Who: One to two members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), the nation’s largest support group for men and women sexually abused as children in religious and institutional organizations, including a California woman who is the group’s Western Regional Director
Why: Last month, two victims of child sexual abuse filed legal claims in New York state charging they were sexually abused by a long-time Hilo priest, Fr. George DeCosta.
Now, DeCosta is the pastor of the Hale Lokahi community in Hilo. He also works with Music Ministry Alive, a MN-based group that trains young people to be liturgical music leaders .
The victims are coming forward as a part of the recent bankruptcy of the Irish Christian Brothers, the Catholic religious order that runs Honolulu’s Damien Memorial School, where DeCosta was a teacher.
Both victims were young students at Damien in the late 1960s, when DeCosta worked as a religion teacher and director of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) at the school. At least one of the victims charges that DeCosta molested him at an Oahu CYO camp.
At the time of the alleged abuse, DeCosta was also assigned to St. Theresa’s parish in Honolulu, a parish with a school.
In 1973, DeCosta was transferred to St. Mary Gate of Heaven—now Malia Puka’O Kalani—Parish in Hilo. He stayed there until 2002, when Honolulu Bishop Francis DiLorenzo mysteriously forced him to retire at age 65. That was the year that the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis attracted national headlines. Bishops pledged then to be “open” about child sex cases and oust predators from ministry.
Currently, DeCosta is a member of the leadership team of Music Ministry Alive, a MN-based group that trains young people to serve as liturgical music leaders in the Catholic church. He is also the founder of the Big Island Learning and Arts Community (BILAC).
SNAP believes that there may be more victims in Hilo and Honolulu and that church officials must do more to reach out to survivors. They want Honolulu Bishop Silva to make sure DeCosta is ousted from his current positions and personally visit all of the churches, schools and communities where DeCosta has worked, reaching out to potential victims. They also want Silva to release DeCosta’s secret personnel file and publicly disclose the full reason DeCosta was forced to retire.
The victims asked SNAP to speak out on their behalf, to make sure that what happened to them does not happen to other children.
Both victims also have rights under Hawaii’s new civil window law that gives victims of child sexual abuse a chance to seek justice in the courts no matter when they were abused.
Both victims are represented by California attorney Michael Reck (714) 742-6593, cell