A local priest accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy more than 20 years ago is a “pedophile to the umpteenth degree,” according to a police detective.
The Rev. John Danilak of Linfield was indicted this week after a Maryland man alleged that Danilak sexually assaulted him in 1978.
Danilak has worked in several area parishes, including St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Pottstown and Holy Ghost Church in Philadelphia. He has also served liturgies in churches in Phoenixville and Mont Clare.
“This is a very sad story, but there’s another side to it,” said Thomas McManus, Danilak’s attorney.
He would not elaborate because of the impending proceedings, and did not say whether Danilak planned to turn himself in.
“We’re negotiating with the state’s attorney on this,” he said.
On Monday, the victim testified before the Ocean City grand jury about the alleged abuse, which he says took place when he was 15 years old.
Danilak was indicted Wednesday on two counts of sodomy, one count of child abuse and 11 counts of perverted and unnatural sex acts.
Maryland has no statute of limitations on these charges.
“He’s a pedophile to the umpteenth degree, a sexual predator, and the bottom line is, he can’t be cured,” Ocean City Detective Vicki Martin said of Danilak. “We believe there are other victims out there.”
Danilak was the priest at St. Gregory of Nyssa Byzantine Catholic Church at the time of the alleged incidents. The victim, whose family belonged to the church, said he knew Danilak for at least 10 years before the assaults took place.
According to the victim, his parents were in the middle of a “nasty” divorce. Danilak used this crisis to prey on the 15-year-old boy, asking him to accompany Danilak to his trailer at the Montego Bay Mobile Home Park in Ocean City, the victim said.
Danilak owned the trailer until 1998.
“I thought it was great. I got to go to the beach,” the victim said. “My mother worshipped the ground Danilak walked on. She thought of him as a father figure for me.”
He said he went with Danilak to the trailer under the premise he would be helping Danilak do renovations.
“Nothing happened the first three times I went with him,” the man said. “It was the fourth time when the abuse started happening.”
During the alleged assaults, the victim said, he was sexually, physically and mentally abused by Danilak.
The man said that he once tried to escape Danilak by running away, but having nowhere to go, he returned to the trailer. He fell asleep on the couch, he said, and when he awoke, he had been handcuffed to the couch’s metal frame.
The attacks took place over several months, the man said. He said he was not Danilak’s only victim. He said another boy, approximately 9 years old, was at the trailer at the same time. That victim has not come forward.
The man said that after several assaults, he stopped them and threatened to tell someone, but Danilak bullied him into keeping quiet about the attacks.
“He said, ‘I represent God. Who do you represent?'” he recounted. “He said, ‘Who is going to believe you?’He also threatened to kill the other boy.”
Martin said Danilak committed “a lot of crimes” with the victim.
“Because of the statute of limitations, those particular crimes could not be presented to the grand jury,” she said.
The wording of the law in 1978 prevented Danilak from being charged with rape.
“Technically, (the victim) was raped. By today’s standards, it would 100 percent be classified as rape,” Martin said.”But because of the laws on the books back then, it was not considered rape.”
Despite Danilak’s threats, the victim reported the abuse to the church.
“The church never even offered an apology,” he said. “It seems the Byzantine Catholic Church doesn’t even care.They hope if they ignore it, it will go away.”
Telephone calls to retired Bishop Michael Dudick, who moved Danilak to several parishes in Pennsylvania and Maryland, were not returned.
Calls were also placed to the current bishop, Andrew Pataki, at the Chancery Office of the Eparchy of Passaic; however, the line was disconnected as soon as Danilak’s name was mentioned.
The Maryland man said Danilak was relieved of duty on July 1, 2002, but only after the eparchy was threatened with a lawsuit if he was found to be serving liturgies in any church.