A former local priest has spoken out, saying he testified about an alleged incident of abuse before a grand jury investigating the Catholic Diocese of Erie.

According to an article from the Erie-Times News, that priest is James Faluszczak, 48, now of Buffalo, N.Y. He was a priest from 1996-2014. He served locally during that time in the Elk County Catholic school system, as the pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Kersey, and as a campus minister at Clarion University before resigning from the priesthood.

The Erie-Times News reported that Faluszczak said, “It hurt me very deeply to resign and cease functioning as a priest...I loved my work. I loved the people and communities I served.”

Faluszczak is believed to be one of many witnesses who have testified before the grand jury, whose proceedings are secret and which was convened at the request of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office around September 2016, according to media reports.

In those media reports, Faluszczak said the attorney general’s office contacted him after he called, in the spring of 2016, a hotline that the office set up in March 2016 for victims of clergy sex abuse. The Erie-Times News reported that on Monday he said that he testified before the grand jury in October 2016, that when he was 16 to 19 years old, he was “molested by my priest in Erie.”

Faluszczak has not publicly named the Erie priest.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office since 2016 has been using the grand jury process to investigate how the Catholic Diocese of Erie and five other Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania handled allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

The Erie diocese has never disclosed the names of priests accused of or dismissed in the past over allegations of sexual abuse. In February 2004, the diocese released data that showed 20 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing a total of 38 minors in the diocese from 1950 to 2002.

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Most recently, Faluszczak has been a vocal protester, being photographed outside of St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, where he and others called on Bishop Richard J. Malone to release the names of clergy involved in sexual-abuse cases in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

Faluszczak has told the media that on two separate occasions he brought the abuse allegations forward to the Erie Diocese.

In response to his claims, Erie Diocese spokeswoman Anne-Marie Welsh told the Courier Express, “Father James Faluszczak was a priest of the Diocese of Erie. He decided to leave his ministry in 2014. Bishop Lawrence Persico has written to him, and he has not responded. Therefore, unfortunately, he is no longer a priest in good standing.

“He did bring a claim of abuse forward. The file on that case has been turned over to Pennsylvania’s attorney general as part of the grand jury investigation, so I am not able to provide details, other than that the alleged perpetrator is deceased.”

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