All Episodes

March 14, 2022 35 mins

Melanie and Paula answer questions from listeners, review updates from the war in Ukraine, and discuss stories and interviews that didn't make it to the series.

If you want to get in touch, email us on And for behind-the-scenes photos and videos follow us on Instagram @SacredScandal

To help support the people of Ukraine at this time, visit

If you’re concerned about or have experienced abuse in your own place of worship contact the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

If you liked the original music from this series, you can listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music

Learn more about your ad-choices at

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:05):
I'm Paula Barrows and I'm Melanie Bartley, and this is
Sacred Scandal. First off, we'd like to sincerely thank you
all for listening to Sacred Scandal. A lot of you
not only invested time, but became emotionally invested in this

case as well. You've written your concerns about Mike, about Ukraine,
about us when we were there. You were even worried
about denn As, our producer, going up that hill. We
were humbled by your involvement. During the run of this season.
We received tons of emails with great questions, really great questions,

questions that have gotten us thinking too. We were touched
by seeing how our listeners were following us side by
side on this case each step of the way. In
this bonus episode, our listeners take them my can get
to ask us questions. We'll also be hearing from the
friends we made in Ukraine who are going through unimaginably
trying times right now, and we'll share with you some

of our favorite anecdotes and stories that we didn't get
to share with you during the season. Congratulations, ladies, you
made an amazing podcast with an almost unbelievable story. If
it hadn't been told. Now, I'm afraid it never would

be told. So we're all eternally grateful. Thank you. We
are beyond moved to receive messages like this. Something our listener,
Jesse Cohen says might be true if we hadn't told
the story when we told it, could we have told
it at all? With the war in Ukraine and Father

one getting older, we may never have been able to
sit atop that hill for three hours and speak to him.
Had we waited only two more months, We feel that,
I mean was fundamental to telling this story. We were
incredibly lucky. Had we done this as a documentary fifteen
years ago like we first set out to do, would
Father Went have been ready to speak. One of our listeners, Victoria,

got us thinking, this is Victoria, and my question is,
how did you Convince Went to talk to you. Well,
that's a good question. That was one of the scariest
moments I think in my life, pulling over in that
car off the side of the road and Petro handed
him the phone, and I think the first thing I
said was this is not a complete story without you.

And I think how I got them first to open
up was reminiscing about old holy Cross experiences and memories
and you know, the good things that I remembered from
the school, and that got him to soften up a
little bit with me. And then it was just like,
so I'm here, I'm in Ukraine to hear you, to
hear your voice. And I think at that point he

felt some sort of sense of responsibility. I think it
was the fact that I said, the only person speaking
for holy Cross has been Mehil you know, I think
that did it. Not All of your questions had answers
that were cut and dry. Why do Father Damon and
Basketball work at a supermarket? I'm confused. If they own

property in a hospital in Ukraine, why do they need
to send money to win? Do they rent out the hospital? Well,
Petro actually mentioned that they have a lot of debt
because the hospital was so expensive to build and the
equipment they bought, it's like hundreds of thousands of dollars
of MRI machines, cat scan machines. There's a lot of

maintenance involved. And I think because the hospital kind of
failed for them, they owe all this money. And and
I guess in Ukraine, uh, it's harder to make a living,
especially right now. So I think that's why Father Damon
and the steal work at a supermarket in North Carolina,
and that's how they help out with with expenses. I

do find it very strange, to be honest, that two
months have to work on a supermarket, because usually like
the monastery maintained to you, but I guess they don't
really have another way to make money. Well, they don't
have followers, and they don't have you know, mass or donations,
but also school. So and ask your your question is
a great one, and we we originally don't have a

clear answer. We are stumped. Other questions were questions we'd
already asked ourselves and the attorneys, but it never seemed
like anyone really ever knew the answer. Hi, Melanie and Paula.
I was wondering if you asked, why did Petro get
adopted by Father Went? And was it by Petro's choice?

Hi Mickey, thank you very question. UM. I think that um,
it was definitely the Father Went idea, and Petro agreed.
Not even the investigators really knew the answer to this question.
At first, the assumption was that there was something to
do with their immigration status, and that being UM a
legal son of one of these priests would make it

easier for them to become a citizen. But gay Levine
even said she asked immigration and they said that wasn't
the case, that they were already on student visas, and
that that wouldn't really have made a difference. Um. I
guess the other theory was inheritance, if father wanted to
make sure if anything happened to him, that Petro would

inherit whatever they had. But what's really strange is that
they took about poverties. So a monkey isn't supposed to own,
you know, property or or have you know, assets, or
or an estate. Your concerns and questions about Mike always
moved us, and we told them how much people out

there wondered about him. One question in particular, we're really
happy to be able to answer. Mike said he brought
the knife because he would cut himself. I was wondering
if he continued to do that. The answer is no, Uh,
Mike does not cut himself anymore. Now he has a
different way to let out his emotions, and we were

definitely so happy to see it. He writes he writes
short stories. Um so whenever he feels anything that's you know,
negative or things like that. You can sometimes hear it
in the story right now, like some of his subject matters.
Sometimes it's a little dark, a little dark. Yeah, but
for me, it just feels like that's his new outlet
and it's so much healthier. And yeah, he sends every

single story to us, and we really want to share
it with everybody. Uh soon, we want to. He wants
us to share the stories with you guys too. And
I just remember even from the last visit to seeing
his arm like it's obviously he's been a cutter for years,
you know, but they're healed and it looks like it's
been Yeah, they're just heed for years, very scarred. Yeah.

Up next, we take a look at a question that
more than one of you had. Hey, Paula and Melanie,
big fan of the podcast, loving it. Thank you so
much for taking questions. I was curious if while in
the Ukraine you had a chance to visit or speak
with any of the other Monastic candidates, or if they
have spoken at all since the original investigation. Yosip declined

on I sent him on WhatsApp message he said not interested.
He was very polite though and like he said, I'd
rather be keeping my experience as at holy Cross private
or yeah. Ivan never responded, neither did Basile. Neither did.
We found Basile on Facebook and we sent him a
few messages and nothing friend requests. And then Sasha. There's

just we can never find Sasha ever. Ever, there's just
no trace of him on the internet. The only one,
I mean, we we did talk to Eliah. Um Elia
has been really, really helpful and its perspective has changed
a lot throughout the years. And and Petro obviously, and
this next one is a great question. And when we've

wondered about ourselves, I'm wondering if sister Michelle was aware
of any of the alleged abuse. Well, we asked Mike directly,
because that was always a theory in our minds that
maybe that would explain why he killed sister Michelle, was
that she knew about the abuse and didn't do anything
to protect him. There was another theory, the wilder one

back then, that was that sister Michell knew about the abuse,
she was going to say something, she was going to
report it, and then father went like put Mike up
for it and like made him kill her, which is crazy.
That's pretty definitely not true. Definitely not true. I think
Also they put Sister Michelle really really far away. The

convent was on the other side of the football fields
and all of that, right, so if something was going on,
she probably wouldn't have seen it and non nobody would
have shared it with her. Yeah, she wasn't the confidante
my person were Mike would feel comfortable talking to her
about this kind of stuff, or or any of them
in asked the candidates, I don't think. When we asked
Mike about this, he said he didn't think Sister Michelle

knew about the abuse. He said he didn't see her
witness anything, and he certainly didn't talk to her about it.
Another question we got from a listener was more about
my own experience at holy Cross. They wanted to know
what it was like to go to a school run
by father went and Father Damien. And it's an interesting
question because I started to think, what was it like

for real, every day to day to day. And one
of the things that stood out to me was confession,
for example, like in a Catholic school. I don't know
about other Catholic schools, but having to do confession with
your own principle, or with someone that's in charge of
your discipline, Like, how can you confess, for example, that
you cheated on a test or that you did something
like that. So, for example, my confessions were never very

very thorough because they were a lot of things that
you know, I'd have to leave out for the sake
of me staying in the school. I don't know if
there would have been That is very strange. Yeah, it
is very strange. And you know, there was a line,
there was a line. It was a longer line to
confess with father went That's what a lot of students remembered.
And then father Dami would also confess people, and nobody

wanted to confess with him. Um, why do you think that,
I don't know, just the vibe, like kind of the
creepy vibe that a lot of people described. Um, and yeah,
they were super intimidating. And you know, I felt like
that guy was the pope or like similar, because I
was young, and because my parents respected him, and all
the parents respected him, and you know, he was just

important looking. And when he passed by, floating down the
aisles the hallways, oh my god, people would just make way,
you know, almost bowing, just intimidated. The day the war

started in Ukraine, our listeners started writing to us immediately
after a break. We'll be addressing those concerns. Welcome back

to Sacred Scandal. I'm Paula Barrows and I'm Melanie Bartley.
At the start of this project, we were already warned
that it was only a matter of time before the
Russians invaded this beautiful country. But now having just been

there and experiencing that amazing place firsthand, this war hits hard.
And since we took you all on our journey to
Ukraine for this podcast, it seems like a lot of
you feel just like we do. Here's another listener. This
is Chas Bayfield from Tasmania, Australia. I'd love to know
whether you've been in touch with any of the people
in the Ukraine who feature in your podcasts and whether

they're a k because I'm sure a lot of your
listeners are very concerned for them. Our friends in Ukraine
have been sending us messages, so we'll let them answer
for themselves. Here's Elia Hertzock. The man asked the candidate
that we're sure you know by now my family have
been affected by the war which was started by Pudgin.

I have my business in Czech Republic, so when Russians
started bombing our cities, I was out of Ukraine as usual.
On the second day, after the military troops entered, I
decided that my family has to leave Ukraine and joined
me here. So now we are together at our home

in Czech Republic. Also, some of my friends and acquaintances,
after they have been sent their families, wives and children
to safe places, went to fight. Even as a soldiers,
all of us are actually ready to stand against the
killers from Russia. Regarding my plan for the future, for

now to stay outside to f create. I'm helping here
our people, women and children who had run away from
war to find their shelter here and helping them with
registration of all necessary documents to stay, transport or anything else.

We are gathering humanitarian aid and sending it to my country.
And I believe that this war will be stopped and
not on the stop, but we will be in against
this evolves from Russia and me and my family and
other families will be able to come back to peaceful

Ukrainian nearest future. That's what we want. Julia, our translator
who we immediately became close friends with and who made

every interaction we had in Ukraine. So Steamless also sent
us an update. My name is Julia and I'm Ukrainian.
And the recent events and the bar was truly truly
heartbreaking and terrifying. Every morning looks like waking up and

checking the news, seeing what cities were bombed, seeing who
survived died, and that's something really really, um really heartbreaking.
We live in the most western part of Ukraine, so
we were lucky enough not to get bombed, but I
can't say the same about so many places. We have

family all over Ukraine. Some live in the occupied territories,
some are fighting at war, some are getting bombed and
just praying every day to survive, to survive, just one
day at a time. My region is receiving many, many
refugees and theyre arrived like fifty people. And that's our

city is one hundred thousand people. Um, many many people
are coming. Just yesterday we received one thousand kids who
were evacuated without their parents because there wasn't just an
opportunity like this. But on the better side, if I
can say that with all its happening, our people are

as united as as possible, and it's truly truly breast
taken to see how so many people are connecting and
helping each other. So yeah, glory to Ukraine. We also

wanted to know how Mike was feeling about this whole
thing and if he had heard from his parents. Actually
got a videogram and emails for our parents and what
are they saying, how are they what's their their mood?
My parents are all right, of course, because they are
really worried about, you know, everything that's going on in

it's really difficult times right now that they are going
around in Ukraine, and it's really sad because as you
can see on the news, you can see a lot
of a lot of people displays, a lot of people
are dead, a lot of you know, children are dead.
And do you think Bert Wurkovina Bistra going to be
safe for now? You know, you know nothing, nothing for certain,
but you know, in my my town is really one

of Sisi's places right now because it's located far in
the west, right on border with this point. You know
you've been in my town, so you know you can
see from my house you can see the point, so
it would be really easy for your parents to kind
of go over the border if they need to in
the last minute sort of emergency. Right, yeah, they would
be most I'm sure. I'm sure the Polish would open up.

Remember back then in the nineties we had you know,
reservoir Polish border and guys, you think those very personal,
you know, go and just watch all the border, you know. Yeah, yeah,
but I'm sure you know, uh yeah, right now Poland
is really good, you know the claim right now, they're

really helpful. We have been in constant contact with Ria
and Yuriko Fell and we thought we'd read you one
of the messages that they sent us. Hello, Paula and Melanie.
We thank god all is quiet and that there is
no shelling. We live far from the border of Russia

and Belarus. Many refugees flee from the war through our
Transcarpathia region. Terrible battles continue and keep all Ukrainians think
the countries that help us. When we saw the co Fells,
we talked to them for hours and it's crazy to

think only a few minutes made it into the show.
But there's a lot of stuff like that that didn't
make it. In coming up after the break we'll be
sharing some tape that didn't make it into the show.
Stay with us, m Welcome back to Sacred Scandal. I'm

Paula Barrows and I'm Melanie Bartley. For the sake of
the story and keeping things concise, we had to leave
out a lot of tape that we thought our listeners
might find interesting. So in this last segment, we're gonna
be playing some of that tape for you. During our
trip to Ukraine, we met up with Dr Marianna to Korshinska,

a Ukrainian doctor who was hired by Mike's defense team
to evaluate him. She spent time with Maria and Yuriko
felt as part of her evaluation, and she gave us
some great cultural perspective we hadn't heard before. The situation
with his father was very bad for him. Yes, so

he told that he wanted to escape from from that
family as quickly as possible. And this possibility to go
to this school or something like that. He really wanted
to be a priest, even named a monk, and it

was for him, it was very serious and for our people.
You have to understand, America, it was something amazing. So
some heaven, yes, so to get there. It was such
a big luck, and I'm sure for him it was

like he'll be there, he will become a priest and
everything will be We'll be just perfect. Here it was
a hell and there will be a heaven. Yes, and
it was it was not only for him like that,
it all for mostly for all of us. Yes, So
it was like that America is something so here I

went to America, Yes, and our thing was destroyed. We've
always asked ourselves how Maria and Yurik fell. Never suspected
Mike might be being abused, even when he and father
Damien came to visit and would share a bed with
their son in their home. You have also to understand

such things has happened there. In our mind something absolutely impossible,
believe me, homosexuality here it's it's maybe now. It is
more like it is possible to be in our time.
In his time, it was something like absolutely not impossible

to be, and especially am a priest's it's absolutely absolutely so.
So he was something destroyed in him, something broke inside him,
for sure, it was psychologically. It was absolutely Going to

Ukraine was truly one of the most intense trips of
our lives. And one we will never forget. But speaking
of trips, remember Art Nanny, the lead detective working in
the murder investigation, Well, he was on a trip to
Vegas ones and told us the story. We found pretty strange,
so described brought me a gift to go to Vegas.

But who did I run into? I ran into Petra
and one of the other monks. They were in Vegas
airport and Petra came up to me and said your name,
I said, ye, and you introduced himselves and said, what
do you guys are doing over here? They're over there
game a matter of fact, I think he was sitting
on a slot machine. I returned to No. Six, So

it was almost five years after the fact. But I'm
looking at them that they were supposed to be monks,
so and they're going to Vegas. What happens the veggest
days in Vegas? But but I was It was just
kind of blew my mind that I have the monks
in Vegas, you know. And there wasn't a lot of
conversations because I didn't really care for pet or anyways.

I believe he lied to me from the get go,
and he could have been lied to me in them
particular point too. We found this story so odd we
decided to ask Father Lou, the priest and canon law expert,
who you heard from an episode seven, his opinion on
monks taking trips and gambling. Okay, so yeah, even monks

there allowed to go on vacations. They might have set
places where you know, the monks go, but because you
become a monk, you don't cease to becoming human being.
All right, So when I want to go on vacation,
all right, I'm a master diver. All of my vacations
were diving vacations. I'd go to the Caribbean, I'd go
you know, the Pacific, I'd go diving. They were very,

very expensive. If I wanted to go on vacation, that's fine.
Cannon law allowed me a month's vacation a year, but
I had to pay for it. You know, the monks
in the monastery, are they entitled the vacation, absolutely, but
the monastery would have to pay for it. And it's

always with the understanding that what one did on vacation
was at least not antithetical to religious life. So I
could go on vacation and go diving. I could go
on vacation and maybe do some recreational gambling where it

was legal. But I couldn't go on vacation and working
an abortion clinic, all right. Or I couldn't go on
vacation and involve myself in you know, the back room
poker part or and gamble in a place that was
going to be rated by the vice squad. But how

do you reconcile I guess, uh, the vowel of poverty
with gambling or going to Vegas or staying at a
nice hotel, for example. Well, you know, poverty means I
don't own anything. It doesn't mean that I have to
live a bereft life. If I take a vil poverty,
it doesn't mean I have to live in a hovel

and wear underwear with holes in it. I'm allowed a
basic standard of life that it's commensurate with human dignity.
Staying in a nice hotel in Las Vegas. You know
where's that on the scale? Recreational gambling in Las Vegas
is legal. It's not immoral, all right, We'll shoot a

monk gamble. I don't know, but I'm a Diosisan priest
and I used to go to Las Vegas. But that
was my money. Okay. You know, if I had a
bad run at the tables, then I didn't buy cigarettes
the next month, whereas the monk is is drawing from
the common assets, and therefore there's got to be another

like level of awareness of his use. So am I
gonna sit in judgment as someone who goes to Las
Vegas and stays in a decent hotel. Well, no, all right,
he didn't do anything illegal, He didn't do anything immoral
on the face of it, and just staying in a

nice room, there's nothing scandalous about that depends on the
local law and the local monastery. I control my finances.
Those who belong to religious orders and take the vow
of poverty do not. I mean, if guy's got a
roll of quarters and goes to a quarter machine and

feeds them in one at a time, you know he
spent what he would have spent on renting a DVD.
But if I see a monk sitting at a dollar
machine and he's putting five dollars at a time in
pulling that arm sixty times an hour. At five dollars

a time, it's three hundred bucks an hour, and he
was at that machine for four hours, I would think
to myself, is this the best use of your monastery's assets.
During the show, we heard a lot from a Holy
Cross parent, Marietta Fernandez. I've kept in touch with her

since our interview, and she's been one of the sweetest
and warmest people we've ever met. And she seemed to
know Sister Michelle better than anyone we talked to from
Holy Cross. Here's the story she told us about her
that really paints a picture of who she was. One
day when we were um, we were walking through the
halls and we were talking. We were walking towards the

chapel area. I loved to go out there and just
look at the beautiful painting outside the murals. And she
had to fill out some paperwork that she told me
that she was going to go get it and bring
it to me, you know. And I was waiting for
her in that area and she was coming back and

she had a smile on her face, and I said, so,
what's so funny. What are you smiling about? And she said, no,
I'm happy because some of the linen that I wanted
to lay out for the Sunday service came out really well.
It ironed out really well, I go, so that makes
you happy, and she she laughed and she said, yes,

that makes me very happy. It makes me happy when
I am in the apple and I am preparing for services.
It's a feeling of accomplishment. And it was almost like
gratitude that she was grateful that she could do that.
I felt that, I felt that coming across very clear,

that she was grateful. You know, she was happy. The
linen came out great. A few months ago, we had
the chance to speak with Ukrainian priest father Taras, who
was flown to Miami all the way from trans Carpathia
to see Mike back in two thousand one. Okay, my

name is Taraslowska. I am a priest from Ukraine Transcarpasia.
Right now I am helping here in the United States
in Pennsylvania Arisbon's and bisont In Catholic Church. How did
you How did you get connected with with me Helo Kofel?
Did you know them from back in Ukraine? Not really.

I was sent by my bishop and he asked me
if I can travel and here in his confession and
bring him the Holy Communion. So what's what I did?
So I was at him in prison. What were your
impressions of Milo when you first met him? Well, I

feel sorry for him, and so, yeah, I confessed him.
I cannot talk about the confession, but you know, he
is a nice looking guy. I feel sorry, you know,
and when I hear that they give him twenty five
years or whatever, I feel sorry. So let me ask

you why why did you need to do this confession
with him? Wouldn't it have been father went job as
as his priest? Probably? Yeah? But I don't know why
why we should ask me to do this? And you

know I was, I was open to do this. Isn't
it part of being a priest kind of uh? Mainly
for giving somebody for their since, even if it's murder,
even if it's the worst thing you can possibly imagine.
Do you think that it would have been basically his
his job or it would have been that the right
thing to do for him to at least go visit
him and try to understand what happened? Probably? Yeah, yeah,

I mean yeah, is fourteen years old is old enough
to make them a monk? Or were the circumstances of
poverty or you know, everything that they were going through
in Ukraine kind of influenced them to come. What are
your thoughts on the age that these boys were coming.

I think they was too young. My country be considered
that you are adults having eighteen year us under eighteen,
you are under jurisdiction or whatever your parents. So I
presume the parents killed the permission, and then the priests

and then the young guys. You know, they hear America
I said end of the world, and that's why they decided.
Some of these boys that were monastic candidates, you know,
they would travel for these trips, and they would say
that each priest would sleep in the same bed with
one of the monastics. Right, is that normal just to

save money and things like that. That's completely strange for
me and unusual. Usually each monk or each priest their
own separately. Do you think God forgave me halo for
what he did? I know that God is so merciful

that he is forgiving all the sins. His love is
so high and so deep that we are not able
to do so many sins or so big or so
terrible sins that God will be not able to forgive us.

It doesn't mean that we have to do sins, but
we have to know this that God is. His love
is like ocean, no end. That's why we are called
to respond to his love and to love him. We

could keep talking about this case for another decade, and
we probably will. This podcast may have ended, but our
bond Mike will always be there. We'll continue to visit,
will continue to write and chat on the phone. We
know a lot of you have expressed how much you
care about the people in this story, and for that
we thank you. Having your support gave us the confidence

to keep moving forward. So stay connected to us via
social media and email. If you want to hear more
about Mike, read has short stories and get more updates
on the people we've all come to care about in Ukraine.
Although Sacred Scandal the show didn't have the ending we
hoped for, this story is not over for us and
we will continue to pursue the truth. Thank you all again,

from the bottom of our hearts. This has been Sacred Scandal.
Sacred Scandal is a production of Exile Content Studio and
partnership with I Heart Radios mikel Dua podcast network. Sacred

Scandal was created and produced by Melanie Bartley and me
Paula Barrows, our senior producer is Dennis Funk of Written
and Air. The executive producers are Rose Red and Nando Villa.
Additional production by Alvaro Sespedes. Our production assistant is Immani Leonard.

Original music and final mixing by Patrick Hart, and special
thanks on this episode to Brian Robertson and Michael Martone
and a huge, huge thank you to our families. If
you'd like to reach out, email us at hello at
Sacred Scandal podcast dot com, and you can follow us

on Instagram at Sacred Scandal
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

1. Start Here
2. Dateline NBC

2. Dateline NBC

Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

3. Amy and T.J. Podcast

3. Amy and T.J. Podcast

"Amy and T.J." is hosted by renowned television news anchors Amy Robach and T. J. Holmes. Hosts and executive producers Robach and Holmes are a formidable broadcasting team with decades of experience delivering headline news and captivating viewers nationwide. Now, the duo will get behind the microphone to explore meaningful conversations about current events, pop culture and everything in between. Nothing is off limits. “Amy & T.J.” is guaranteed to be informative, entertaining and above all, authentic. It marks the first time Robach and Holmes speak publicly since their own names became a part of the headlines. Follow @ajrobach, and @officialtjholmes on Instagram for updates.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.