Man sexually abused by ex-Northampton priest says diocese botched response

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley, speaks recently about his experience of sexual abuse at the hands of former Northampton priest the Rev. Eugene Honan, shown above left. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olan Horne, 58, of Chester, who is a sexual abuse survivor and an advocate for survivors of priest abuse, speaks during an interview Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olan Horne, 58, of Chester, who is a sexual abuse survivor and an advocate for survivors of priest abuse, speaks during an interview Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rev. Eugene Honan speaking in 2007 about his 40 years as a priest from the rectory at the Immaculate Conception Church in Easthampton. Honan retired in 2010.  GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Eugene Honan speaking in 2007 about his 40 years as a priest from the rectory at the Immaculate Conception Church in Easthampton. Honan retired in 2010.  GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Eugene Honan speaking in 2007 about his 40 years as a priest from the rectory at the Immaculate Conception Church in Easthampton. Honan retired in 2010.  —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley, pauses during an interview at the Daily Hampshire Gazette while speaking about his experience of sexual misconduct at the hands of a former Northampton priest. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley, talks earlier this month about his experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a former Northampton priest many years ago. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley, speaks about his experience of sexual misconduct at the hands of a former Northampton priest during an interview Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley is shown near the Falls. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley is shown near the Falls March 9, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Richard Koske, 62, of South Hadley is shown near the Falls March 9, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@ecutts_HG
Published: 3/15/2018 9:36:22 PM

NORTHAMPTON — South Hadley native Richard Koske was always drawn to a life of holiness. A devout Catholic, he says his faith remains strong despite being abused by three priests and receiving a disappointing response from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

“I always had a love for Christ as a kid growing up. I knew, I know he is real,” Koske, 62, said in an interview at the Gazette last week. “People ask me, ‘How can you even step foot in a Catholic church?’ I said, ‘because Christ didn’t do it to me. His workers did.’”

In sharing his story, Koske said he hopes his experience will help others avoid the trauma he endured. “I went through hell and I’m still going through hell,” he said.

“It’s about justice and making the church better and safer for him and others,” said his daughter, Rebecca Koske, of South Hadley, who is supporting her father’s decision to make his story public.

Koske was accompanied during the interview by Olan Horne, of Chester, who serves as an advocate for people with claims of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church.

Koske said he was sexually assaulted in the mid-1990s by the Rev. Eugene Honan while he was pastor at the former St. Mary’s parish in Northampton. The Diocese of Springfield deemed the allegation credible nearly two decades later, and has in various documents referred to the incident as “inappropriate touching,” “sexual assault” and “sexual misconduct.” Koske said he received a $20,000 settlement from the church in 2013. Last year, church officials stripped Honan of all priestly duties within and outside the diocese after re-examining Koske’s case.

The Gazette has been unable to contact Honan for comment during the past week. Messages left by the Gazette on a voicemail belonging to “Gene Honan” went unreturned. No one answered the door at a house on River Road on the Huntington/Middlefield town line, listed as Honan’s address in the 2015 Diocesan Directory, when a Gazette reporter visited the home on Monday. Property records show Eugene Honan as the owner.

Troubled by response

Koske said he remains troubled by the diocese’s response to his case. He said Honan continued to exercise religious duties after the diocese acknowledged that he abused Koske. And Koske noted that Honan even was honored with the Monsignor Timothy J. Leary Award by officials at Holyoke Catholic High School in 2014.

The Diocese of Springfield, in an email from spokesman Mark Dupont, acknowledged the award and said because the allegations against Honan were treated in part as a personnel matter, they were not publicly disclosed.

“Unfortunately, when honoring some two dozen members of their legacy community, the former Holyoke Catholic High School included Rev. Honan in the group of honorees. The list was never sent to Bishop for vetting,” Dupont wrote.

“Nonetheless the diocese must accept responsibility for this unfortunate circumstance, which stands in contrast to our efforts to hold those who have abused accountable for their actions as well as to reach out with compassion to all victims of abuse and continue our efforts to prevent a repeat of past failures,” Dupont continued. “When we do fall short we try to learn from our mistakes. Like all organizations we are continually improving our training and policies. The diocese is currently in the process of hiring a clergy monitor for those under any disciplinary action.”

In Dupont’s email, the Diocese of Springfield confirmed it received a report in 2011 from an adult alleging “sexual misconduct” against Honan that dated back 15 years.

“Despite the number of years which had passed, the matter was investigated by the diocese and taken up by the Diocesan Review Board which found the victim’s complaint to be credible” Dupont wrote. “Late in 2011 the matter was also referred to the District Attorney.”

Dupont did not specify which district attorney’s office, and a request by the Gazette for specifics including information about what happened to the referral went unanswered. The Northwestern district attorney’s office, which has jurisdiction in Hampshire County, did not return repeated requests for comment.

Honan, who retired in 2010, was already out of regular full-time ministry in 2011 when then-Bishop Timothy McDonnell withdrew Honan’s “priestly faculties to minister outside the diocese and allowed only supervised ministry when he was in the diocese,” Dupont wrote in the email.

Honan was also ordered to leave the rectory where he had taken up residence after his retirement, according to Dupont.

Allegations of abuse

Koske doesn’t remember the exact date when the alleged assault took place. By the mid-1990s, he had already known Honan for decades — Koske met him when he was around 15 years old and was drawn in by his sermons.

“I was inspired,” Koske said. “I was overwhelmed with his homilies.”

After he had a cancerous brain tumor removed in 1993, Koske said, he was unable to find a full-time job. Honan, however, offered him maintenance work at a time-share Honan owned in Maine as well as at the rectory in Northampton.

One afternoon sometime between 1995 and 1997, Koske said, he went to the rectory to visit Honan. He said he joined the priest in his office while Honan finished some paperwork. Koske said he was offered a drink, Southern Comfort, and recalled taking two sips before he began to fall asleep. Koske said he told Honan he had to leave but Honan ordered him to stay and eventually escorted him to a bedroom.

“I’m sitting there, the last thing I remember, I remember him opening up a dresser drawer. For what, I do not know. And then all the sudden, I was out like a light. I was gone. I use the word woke up because at the time, I thought I fell asleep,” Koske said.

The next thing Koske said he remembered was lying in a bed with his pants down to his knees, his shirt open and Honan’s hand on his chest.

“I couldn’t function. I sat up, I grabbed myself and my pants, I put my feet on the floor and I stood up,” Koske said. He walked out of the bedroom into another area of the rectory.

“I left all the lights off in the place. I didn’t want to put a light on because then he would know where I was. It took me all the courage I had to get out of that rectory,” he said.

A short time after Koske made it back to his South Hadley home his phone rang. He said it was Honan asking why he left. Koske said he told Honan he didn’t want to talk to him anymore but Honan was insistent and after repeated phone calls, Koske said he agreed to go to the rectory the next day.

Once there, Koske said, Honan again asked why he had left the rectory.

“I said, ‘Father Gene, listen, I’ve known you for many years but I never thought for once that you would try something like this on me,’” Koske recalled. “He said, ‘Koske, you wanted this to happen as much as I did.’”

Koske said he then got up and left.

Reporting the abuse

Koske said he first told the diocese about the incident in July 2006. Two years earlier, he went through Safe Environments trainings, which deals with a variety of topics including the state and diocesan policy on reporting child abuse and sexual abuse, as part of his employment as a sacristan with an area church. The training led him to speak with a diocese employee about his own abuse.

Koske completed an intake form, detailing the incident, with the diocese’s office of counseling, prevention and victim services. The process is standard practice whenever someone files a complaint with the diocese, according to documents on the diocese’s website. It is completed either by the alleged victim alone, or with the help of a victim assistance coordinator provided by the diocese.

When he was finished, Koske asked that nothing more be done with it.

But in October 2011, Koske contacted the diocese again after attending services at St. Patrick’s Church in South Hadley and seeing Honan at the altar.

Koske’s case was brought before the Diocesan Review Board on Nov. 11, 2011, and a few months later Koske was informed that the board found the allegations credible. In 2013, Koske received a $20,000 settlement from the diocese.

During a November 2017 meeting attended by Koske, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and the director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the Diocese of Springfield, the diocese acknowledged a past conversation in which Honan admitted taking advantage of Koske one night at the rectory in Northampton without his consent, but denied that he put anything in Koske’s drink. Both Koske and his daughter, Rebecca, recounted the conversation and Dupont confirmed that information was brought to the Diocesan Review Board.

Koske said he was told of Honan’s alleged confession in 2011 and he understood that the priest was going to be moved out of state for a month before the diocese decided what to do from there.

However, Honan’s name is not on the diocese’s list of credibly accused clergy because that list only includes those with credible allegations involving minors, Dupont wrote in an email to the Gazette.

Koske provided a copy of a letter he received from the diocese’s Office of Counseling, Prevention and Victim Services on June 25, 2013, which described his interactions with the diocese surrounding his allegations and the resulting actions.

The letter, as well as an earlier letter from the Diocesan Review Board dated Jan. 20, 2012, shows that Koske’s allegation of sexual abuse by the late Rev. Richard Meehan was found credible. Koske reported “sexually inappropriate behavior” by a third priest, but it is unclear what the diocese determined. Meehan was defrocked by the Vatican in 2006 over allegations of sexual misconduct and is on the list of credibly accused clergy within the Diocese of Springfield. Meehan died in June 2017.

In good faith

After receiving his settlement and the letter detailing the diocese’s response to his allegations, Koske thought the ordeal was over.

But in 2017, Koske again told church officials he believed they had not appropriately addressed his allegations against Honan. Despite a promise that Honan’s status will be re-evaluated, Koske said he has received no word since on what has been done.

“After that meeting Bishop summoned Rev. Honan and told him he was re-considering this matter,” Dupont wrote in the email to the Gazette. “Bishop subsequently has informed him that he will no longer have any priestly faculties in the diocese or elsewhere.”

The Koskes said they haven’t heard anything from the diocese since the November meeting, their emails have gone unanswered and they remain frustrated.

Rebecca Koske was at her father’s side in November when he met with Bishop Rozanski. She said the most painful part of that meeting was watching her father fight back tears as he described his experience. “He came forward to the church in good faith expecting something to be done,” she said.

Richard Koske met Horne, the victim advocate, about three years after he received his settlement. With Horne’s support as well as that of his daughter, Koske said he decided to take his story public.

The most important thing Rebecca Koske said she wants her father to take away from going public is a sense of healing, knowing he did something that may help others.

“I can’t imagine what it is like to fight with those demons,” she said. “I hope that him coming forward, other people, specifically men, can find the courage in themselves to come forward. Whether they have been abused by Honan or other people in the church. When more and more people come forward, they can become a true force to reckon with and then the diocese and the church have to do something.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.


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