Former-priest James Faluszczak, 48, now of Buffalo, N.Y., has decided to speak out — naming his alleged abuser, an Erie priest with local ties.
Faluszczak has identified the Rev. Monsignor Daniel J. Martin, who served as pastor of St. Boniface Parish, Kersey, in 1962, and as headmaster of Elk County Christian, as the school was then called, serving there until 1970. Martin died in 2006 at age 88.
The incident has surfaced as Faluszczak claims to have been one of many witnesses to testify before a grand jury, whose proceedings are secret and which was convened at the request of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office around September 2016 to investigate sex abuse allegations in dioceses throughout Pennsylvania, according to the Erie-Times News.
Faluszczak said that Martin molested him when he was 16 to 19 years old, adding that the abuse occurred at St. George and at Mt. Calvary Church and then at Mercyhurst College, now Mercyhurst University, all in the Erie area, where Faluszczak said Martin was living at the time.
Faluszczak added that Martin used the knowledge of his family’s hardships in the 1980s “to groom” him for the abuse.
“Most people would see this as irony but it’s really pathology,” said Faluszczak in a phone interview Saturday morning.
Despite the abuse, Faluszczak became a priest in 1996 and spent nearly 20 years in active ministry. He eventually would serve two of the same congregations as had his alleged abuser.
He served locally in the Elk County Catholic school system, of which Martin was the first headmaster, and then as the pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Kersey, where Martin also served.
“Father Martin lived in that rectory for two years while he built Elk County Catholic. I had to sleep in the same bedroom as he slept in how many years prior,” Faluszczak said. “I loved being at St. Boniface. I loved my community, and I loved my parish... that was my flock.
“But in the back of my mind I still had that notion that Father Martin had lived in that house.”
Faluszczak also served for a time as a campus minister at Clarion University.
Ultimately, the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he experienced as a result of his abuse led to panic attacks, especially at the altar of St. Boniface. That led him to drink periodically, he said, to numb some of what he was feeling. Eventually he would be charged with a DUI in Fox Township in 2014.
“I had been abused by Father Martin and then I was in these situations where I was constantly reminded of him and in some of my assignments I was surrounded by people doing these pathological things,” Faluszczak said. “And all of that took a toll on me.”
Erie Diocese spokeswoman Anne-Marie Welsh said Saturday, “We are still in the process of confirming identities of the accused that will be published within the next few weeks. At that time, we expect to have a news conference during which we will provide additional information.”
Additionally, Sam MacDonald, president of Elk County Catholic School System, said in a statement Saturday morning, “Father Daniel Martin was assigned to Elk County Christian High School from 1962 to 1971, and served in the role of principal and headmaster. I was not aware of any allegations against him until we saw the recent statements in the Erie-Times News.
“Our first priority at Elk County Catholic is the safety and security of our students. The Diocese of Erie, along with the school system, takes these issues very seriously, and we follow strict policies to ensure that we maintain a healthy and nurturing environment in our schools. We are committed to cooperating with any investigation associated with these accusations, and we will continue to pray for everyone involved.”
Another incident that Faluszczak said still impacts him is the abuse he experienced at St. Catherine’s Church in DuBois, where he would spend three years from 1994-1997 — one as a seminarian, one as a deacon, and another as a priest. In that station, he claims to have experienced sexual harassment and excessive sexual innuendo, and when he spoke with superiors as highly placed as the bishop no action was taken.
Despite the abuse allegations and their impacts, when asked, Faluzczak says without hesitation that he never regrets answering the call to be a priest, but admits that he dreads going to Mass this Easter.
“You might recall a verse from the Easter hymn “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” — “Here on earth both priest and victim, in the Eucharistic feast. Not only did I think the hymn described Christ, but it described me as I said Mass, and it described me serving Mass for Martin,” Faluszczak said.
“Christ was also both priest and victim.”