Denby Fawcett: Abused By Priests As A Child, He’s ‘Finally Been Released’

By Denby Fawcett
Civil Beat, 8 March 2016

As the deadline nears for child sex abuse victims to sue, one of the first to step forward talks about his settlement with Hawaii’s Catholic Church.

Mark Pinkosh was one of the first in Honolulu to come forward publicly and discuss allegations of alleged child sex abuse by Catholic Church clergy in Hawaii.

Four years ago at a news conference, Pinkosh claimed he was raped by then-priests Joseph Henry and Joseph Ferrario in the late 1960s when he was a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Anthony Padua Church in Kailua.

Pinkosh, now 53, is the first to speak publicly about a mediated settlement he reached with the Diocese of Honolulu.

“I feel joyous. I feel freed up. All the anger I have been holding in for decades has finally been released,” he says.

I spoke with Pinkosh by phone Friday. After seeing the movie “Spotlight” about Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the complicity of the church in covering up sex abuse by priests, I wanted to find out more about what the Catholic Church in Hawaii is doing to address the issue. 

I also wanted to learn more after seeing those local newspaper ads asking Hawaii victims of child sex abuse to come forward to file claims before the deadline expires next month.

The statute of limitations for criminal charges in old child sex abuse cases ran out long ago, but the Legislature extended the date for civil claims in 2012 and again in 2014 to the current April 24 deadline.

Sen. Maile Shimabukuro unsuccessfully tried to extend the deadline this legislative session for yet another two years to April 2018. Her proposal died when it failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. [emphasis added]

Sixty-three people claiming they were sexually abused sued the church in Hawaii after the statute of limitations was extended in 2012. Since then, more than 30 of their claims have been settled in mediation.

The allegations are against 26 priests, brothers or others working at 18 Hawaii schools and churches.

Attorney Mark Gallagher, who has handled many of the sex abuse lawsuits, says that two or three more people alleging sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have been added to the mediation list.

Pinkosh hopes still more survivors act before it is too late to sue. That’s why he is willing to talk about incidents of sex abuse that still make him uncomfortable.

“I’m keen to have anyone shine any sort of publicity on the recent events and past horrors being put right,” he said in an email.

I called him Friday at his hotel in London, where he is on a two-week vacation. He said the relief of settling his case had made him feel free for the first time to take a real vacation in London, a city which up until now he has visited only for work.

On Nov. 12, the Diocese of Honolulu and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers settled the complaint by Pinkosh, who accused priests Ferrario and Henry of raping him when he was a fourth-grader attending after-school programs and serving as an altar boy at St. Anthony Church. Both men were at St. Anthony at the time.

Ferrario later became bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu, from 1982 to 1993. He was the first Catholic bishop to be accused of sexually attacking children.

A total of five men accused Ferrario of molesting them when they were young. David Figueroa went on the “Geraldo Rivera Show” in 1990 to claim Ferrario began to abuse him at St. Anthony’s, where he says Ferrario sometimes paid him after having sex. Figueroa said Henry also molested him.

Ferrario maintained he was innocent. He died in 2003 of cardiac arrest.

Henry, who died in 1974, is considered the most notorious of all the priests in Hawaii accused of molestation and sexual assault. Seventeen men say Henry harmed them sexually.

Gallagher says, “Father Henry was the most egregious offender. The most frightening thing about him is how highly he was thought of in the parish when he was doing this to all these kids. There are people at St. Anthony who still defend him.”

Attorney Randall Rosenberg, who has filed suits for clients alleging abuse, says Henry not only abused children at St. Anthony Church, he also convinced officials at the Koolau Boys Home where he was counseling troubled boys to let him take certain boys to sleep-overs at his Kailua house, where he sexually molested them.

Pinkosh says he served as Henry’s altar boy. “He raped me. It wasn’t just touching. It was violent sex.”

Even though he was very young, Pinkosh knew it was wrong. He says he told two nuns what had happened.

“They dismissed it. They said I was lying,” he says.

Then he went to a priest he remembers as Father Avery.

“He believed me, but he told me not to tell my parents. He said the church would sort it out.”

He says the only advice he got from others at the church was “to stay away from Father Henry.”

But Pinkosh says that was difficult. Henry took to stalking him and whispering lewd comments as he followed him around the church grounds.

Pinkosh later sought guidance and counseling from Ferrario when the latter arrived in Kailua to be a priest at St. Anthony.

He says Ferrario listened patiently as he told him in detail about Henry’s sexual abuse. He says Ferrario told him not to tell anyone and then proceeded to rape him himself.

“That created quite a mess because I could never get away from him. I had to be confirmed by him and to take communion from him.”

Pinkosh finally told his parents when he was 23. He says, “They were upset but supportive. It was very hard for them. They had trusted the church. They never went back to St. Anthony again.”

Pinkosh tried to press criminal charges in the 1980s, but he was told then it was too late, because the statute of limitations had run out for prosecution.

“I wanted Ferrario to go to jail,” he says.

Attorneys Gallagher and Jeff Anderson filed a civil complaint for Pinkosh in 2012.

Pinkosh is unwilling to discuss how much money he received in his mediated settlement. He says he plans to use some it to set up a nonprofit to provide counseling for both male and female survivors of sex abuse.

I have known Pinkosh since 1991, when I saw his play “Haole Boy.”

Pinkosh, an actor and playwright, was one of the first to deal theatrically with race and ethnic identity problems of haoles in Hawaii. I both laughed and cried when I saw his performance. After the play, my husband bought a “Haole Boy” T-shirt, which he wore for many years.

When we watched Pinkosh in the play, we knew nothing about his suffering as a child.

At the time, Pinkosh says, he felt very alone, carrying a heavy secret because he thought he was the only one who knew the two priests were sexual predators.

He said later when he would meet other young men who had gone to St. Anthony’s he was surprised to hear them joke about Henry.

“It was like a given. Everyone knew Father Henry was a pervert. They laughed about how they have been able to avoid his clutches.”

Pinkosh says the chilling thing is, the priests seemed to know exactly who to prey upon.

“They picked boys who were being raised by single mothers or children from poor families, families who were struggling. They were smart about profiling kids,” says Pinkosh.

He says own family was middle class and his parents solidly married, but they were busy with demanding jobs: his father as an Army officer and his mother working long hours at a Mexican restaurant she owned in Kailua.

“My parents trusted St. Anthony’s for my care.”

Pinkosh says only now, more than 30 years later, does he finally feel the weight of what happened has been lifted. “I feel tremendously lucky.”

Read the entire story, including photos, on the Civil Beat site.

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