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February 7, 2022 45 mins

After the priests of Holy Cross Academy refused to cooperate with the murder and sexual abuse investigations, lawyers started to dig into the school’s past on their own. What they found was that years before Sister Michelle’s death, another investigation into Holy Cross already started — and it stretched all the way to the very top of the Catholic Church. 


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
We got ahold of the faculty handbook of Holy Cross Academy,
and let's just read some passages. So religious affiliation. Holy
Cross Academy was founded as a private, independent preparatory school
in the Catholic monastic tradition of education by the Monastery
of the Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross, with the

(00:26):
permission of the Most Reverend Michael J. Duddick of Passaic,
New Jersey. Parentheses, in whose Diocese of the Eastern Right
of the Catholic Church the academy is located. So they're
like really stressing the fact that they're strictly Catholic and
that they are under the Aparchy of Passaic. That's what
this is saying. You want to go on to the

(00:47):
next passage. Legal jurisdiction regarding Holy Cross Academy. Holy Cross
Academy is an independent, non for profit corporation in the
state of Florida. It is neither owned nor operated did
by the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami or the Byzantine White
Catholic Diocese of Passaic, New Jersey. Therefore, it is inappropriate

(01:09):
and in fact useless to contact the bishops of either
diocese or the superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of
Miami regarding matters of Holy Cross Academy, since the school
is neither owned, governed, nor controlled by either of these dioceses. Likewise,
its priests are not members of either diocese parentheses. They

(01:30):
are priests of Holy Cross Monastery. Therefore, for matters relating
to the administration, operation, policies, decisions, et cetera of Holy
Cross Academy, there is no higher authority to whom to
direct a suggestion, concern, complaint, or appeal than the Chancellor, Headmaster,

(01:51):
who is the president and highest authority regarding this corporation. Okay,
you know how the first paragraphic goes, Holy As Academy
was founded that with the permission of the Most Reverend
Michael Duddick of Passaic, New Jersey. So it was with
the permission of Passaic, New Jersey. And they don't have
any power over it, got it, That's what they're saying,

(02:14):
which is very confusing. I would love to have a
conversation with Father Abbot one day and ask him this.
I'm Paula Barrows and I'm Melanie Bartley, and this sacred
scandal I remember did something was communicated to the Vatican.

(02:34):
But you know, I really don't know too much about
how that whole system operates, So there was always that weirdness.
So if you have this Bysantine Catholic on one side,
and you have this Roman Catholic on the other, So
how are they able to actually continue if they were
told to cease and desist essentially, but they didn't. Well,
the dude was a fraud. They weren't pretty. They were predators. Man.
I could totally believe that there were people that are

(02:56):
out there to like get them, because they have something
so good that's going on, and all these wonderful people
surrounding them, Like I wouldn't doubt if there was somebody
out there to be like, let's shut the church down,
he shall cease and desist from for sending himself as
a profest monk. And wow, how in the world did

(03:18):
they get to open that school? Then? With all this
going on, as the investigation into sexual abuse at holy
Cross Academy continued, the legal teams for the defense and
prosecution continued to get little cooperation from the school's leaders,

(03:42):
Father Abbot Gregory Went and Father Damien Gibald. The priests
of holy Cross Academy remained silent on the advice of
their attorneys. So the legal teams for the defense and
the prosecution started looking more deeply into their history and
the schools on their own. And as they started asking questions,
both sides found that they weren't the only ones looking

(04:04):
into Holy Cross and the two priests. Years before the
murder of Sister Michelle, the Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey
started its own investigation into the school and the monastery.
The eparchy, which is like the diocese in the Roman
Catholic Faith, was trying to find out if Holy Cross
was actually a part of the Byzantine Catholic Church, or

(04:26):
any church at all. Holy Cross was within the territory
of this New Jersey eparchy, and as they explored the
history of the school, they started to realize that the
priest and the monks may have been using the church's
name to misrepresent what they really were. The issues appeared
to stretch back to the original formation of the school

(04:46):
back in by then, Father Went and Father Damien had
been operating their two man monastery for almost three years.
According to documents that we've come across from the eparch,
key the priests met with the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami
and Bishop Michael Duddock from the Byzantine Church in New Jersey.

(05:09):
They laid out plans for a K through twelve academy.
At the end of those talks, the bishop said no
to the high school, but did eventually agree to them
opening a middle school by Bishop Didick retired and the
new Bishop, Andrew Pataki recently took over. At some point

(05:29):
he took notice of Holy Cross Academy and Bishop ATTACKI
summoned fathers, Went and Damien to a meeting. I am
Peter Davidson, the author of Murdered Holy Cross. Well, the
rationality I read in all the communication that they had
there was a whole hearing. They pretty much had a
tribunal they called it, where they confronted Went and Damien

(05:53):
about what they were up to. And the reason was that,
according to the Bishop, the eper Key had tried to
do high school level but it never worked out. They
were successful doing elementary school, successful doing middle school, but
high schools that just didn't work. And he wouldn't give

(06:14):
him his permission. But the Eperchy guaranteed at one point
for a million dollar loan to the bank that enabled
went to build the Holy Cross campus, and then went
in Damien went one step further. They defied the bishop
by doing a high school. This meeting took place in June,

(06:41):
and what Bishop attack, he claimed was that Fathers went
and Damien secured the loan to build a new school
and expand to a high school without anyone in New
Jersey or the Miami diocese knowing until it was already done.
One of the documents we came across talked about how
the Archbishop of Miami and the Byzantine bishop from Passaic
were invited to bless the new school building when it

(07:04):
finally opened. It was only when they got there on
the day of the ceremony that they realized they were
blessing a high school they said wasn't allowed to exist.
But it was too late, the school was already open,
and they did the blessing anyway, not to cause a scene.
It's not clear from any eparchy documents we've come across

(07:25):
what the plan was for Holy Cross after this first meeting,
and we've not been able to get any response from
the eparchy, But what is clear from public records is
that not long after this meeting, Fathers went and Damien
started making some changes to all of Holy Cross. First,
it's important to know that since they were both founded,

(07:47):
holy Cross the School and Holy Cross the Monastery were
separate legal entities. The property of the school was owned
by Holy Cross Academy, Incorporated, and the properties that were
a part of the monastery dairy were held by Monastery.
Of the Exaltation of the most holy Cross Incorporated documents

(08:07):
show that they were formed as civil companies and outside
the norms of church law. A few weeks after the
meeting with Bishop Attacki in July of nine, Father Went
was in Ukraine recruiting the very first monastic candidates, and
at the same time Father Damien was back in Miami
transferring all of the property that belonged to the monastery

(08:29):
to the school. Then a few months later, in December nine,
fathers Went and Damien legally amended the school's articles of incorporation.
Now they said the Academy was an independent, self governing
school in the Catholic tradition, but that it is not
under the jurisdiction or control of the hierarchy of any church. Now,

(08:55):
before these two moves, if the school or the monastery
closed all of its assets would have been absorbed by
the Eparchy, its governing body. But now the monastery had
no assets other than a modest bank account, and Holy
Cross Academy was no longer officially affiliated with the Byzantine
Church at all. Everything now belonged to the directors of

(09:18):
Holy Cross Academy, namely Father Went and Father Damien, two
monks who took a vow of poverty. I think Father
Wind saw himself as an intellectual. I think he saw
himself as a great authority, and he desperately wanted people

(09:38):
to follow him. And what he was actually doing was
setting up his own little operation that wasn't under the
control of the eparchy, and it was his own operation
where he was the be all and end all. And
he even told that to the teachers, there is no
higher authority than me, And that's not the way it
is in parochials, schools that are affiliated with part of

(10:02):
the Catholic Church. Everybody answers to a higher authority, whether
it's to a bishop, went to the pope. But Father
Went was very specific that there was no other authority
to appeal to but him. By the following year, Bishop Attack,
he noticed what happened at Holy Cross and he wasn't

(10:25):
pleased that the Byzantine priests were continuing to advertise the
now independent academy as a Catholic school. But the bishop
also found out about a new project at Holy Cross
and Pattacki asked to speak with the priests. Again. Here's
Assistant State Attorney guil Avin to explain what happened was
there came a point where he was aware that there

(10:47):
were boys being brought over from Ukraine, and he met
with Went and he said, what are you doing. We
don't take boys under the age of eight to be monks.
This isn't part of our faith. This isn't part of
what we do. And they met, and they had a

(11:08):
long meeting over a couple of days, and at that
point that particular Bishop of Passaic, New Jersey said, if
you don't get the boys out of there, we're basically
separating you, or, for lack of the better term, excommunicating you.
They didn't come back to Miami and tell anybody, and

(11:31):
because the Byzantine right is so few and far between,
nobody talked about it. We know from the Upper Key
documents that Father Went was feeling persecuted by Bishop Attacki
at the time of the second meeting, so much so
that he reached out to a cardinal at the Vatican

(11:53):
for help. Bishop Attacki also sent a letter to that
same cardinal, Only now his concerns weren't just about the school.
He was questioning whether the monastery was truly a monastery,
or whether Father Abbot Went was really an abbot at all.
That's coming up after a break. Welcome back to Sacred Scandal.

(12:37):
Back when I was still a student at Holy Cross
Academy in the late nineties, I didn't know about what
was going on between the school, it's monastery, and the Eparchy.
Of course, after the murder of Sister Michelle and the
sex abuse allegations were made, we students heard whispers that
something was going on there, and there were rumors that
maybe Father Went and Father Damien weren't really priests. In

(13:04):
trying to figure out the truth, Melanie and I came
across some documents that addressed the conflict between the school's
priests and Bishop Attacki from the Eparchy. We got a
copy of a document sent from Bishop attack in New
Jersey to Cardinal Achile Silvastrini at the Vatican. Back it's
something called a vote um, which is like an official,

(13:25):
authoritative opinion in a case in the church, and in
this vote, m Bishop Attack laid out a case against
the monastery, arguing it was not a valid church body.
He also made some other recommendations for the priests. We
showed this document to some former Holy Cross students. Go
ahead and read that for me if you can, okay.

(13:45):
The directors addressed to Reverend went are as follows. He
shall seize and desist from representing himself as a professed monk,
and its consequently forbidden to wear the monastic habit, since
he is neither a monk nor an abbot. He shall
see synthesis from representing himself as an abbot in general
and as abbot of Holy Cross Monastery. The ron Gibol

(14:06):
shall see sy thesist from representing himself as a professed monk,
and as consequently forbidden to where the monastic habit, are
permitted to reside as since a drive until such time
to discern the future course of their lives. The Academy
shall be restructured in conformity with the norms of canon law,
and shall not use as a name Catholic school or

(14:27):
private Catholic school. Without proper ecclesiastical authorization. I mean, it's
something that you read and you're disappointed to know. Um. Yeah,
this whole document is about a twenty page report with
more than thirty attached documents to support its argument. But

(14:48):
neither of us are lawyers, let alone lawyers familiar with
church law, and it can be hard to understand everything
that's going on. We reached out to the Eparchy on
some of the p but who are involved in the
bishops case, to try to understand what he was getting at,
but they didn't respond or comment. We even got in
touch with the cannon lawyers for the Vatican who eventually

(15:11):
worked on this case, but they also declined to comment.
So to help us interpret why Bishop Pataki made these suggestions,
we spoke with a priest and canon law expert. I'm
Father louve Alone. I'm a retired priest of the Diocese
of Pittsburgh. I also, for a long time was adjunct

(15:31):
professor in the School of Law Ducane University, teaching an
elective in Cannonball. To be transparent, when we talked to
Father lou we told him nothing about the murder at
Holy Cross or the sexual abuse allegations against father's Went
and Damien. Now Father lu also knows about the relationship
groups like Byzantines have with the Catholic Church because he

(15:54):
is a bi ritual priest. He's not only a priest
of the Latin or Western Church and Home, but he's
also qualified to serve mass for the Marionite Church. Mayonites,
like the Byzantines are part of the Eastern Catholic Church. Okay,
so there are seven Catholic churches. They're all under the
Bishop of Rome as the singular head and Vicar of Christ.

(16:18):
The largest one in the world and one what most
people are familiar with is what we call the Latin Church.
But also there are Eastern churches. They have their own
form of spirituality, their own form of liturgy, their own
code of canon law. The Catholic churches in the East
are under the Pope, and all of these churches communicate

(16:40):
to the Pope and the Vatican through something called the
Oriental Congregation. Back in the late nineteen nineties, the congregation
was led by Cardinal Silvestrini, which is why both Father
Went and Bishop Attacki contacted him in their dispute. Father
Lieu also told us that the argument Bishop ATTACKI made
to the congregation, wasn't that Father Damien and Father Went

(17:03):
weren't priests, but that they weren't actually monks, and that
Holy Cross was not a valid monastery. And it all
stems back to the fact that when they founded that monastery,
they also founded a new monastic order. And can I ask,
is there some kind of protocol or process that needs
to be followed to establish one of these new orders? Yes?

(17:26):
There is. If you have a vision, all right, if
you want to establish an order, the person who has
the authority the governance is the local bishop. You go
to him. The local bishop says, okay, I give you
permission to start doing it. You have to write your
by laws. You have to articulate what your special charroism is.
Why are you starting it? Couldn't this week put under

(17:46):
the Jesuits or the Franciscans, etcetera. If the local bishop
gives his permission, he has oversight of it. For Catholics,
terrorism is a special talent or gift from the Holy
Spirit that a monastic order focuses on. Father Went and
Father Damien proved this first step. They got permission from

(18:08):
Bishop Duddick the abric and power when they found that
Holy Cross, and then they submitted their vision for the
monastery and their terrorism would be building the school. But
one of the next steps to becoming monks they skipped,
since you know religious life is so old. There are
certain steps. As a dossarsan priest, I had to go

(18:31):
to the seminary to be formed, spiritual formation, academic formation,
pastoral formation, and human formation. To be a priest in
the parish for religious orders, they have to be formed
in that communal life, communal prayer, the evangelical councils. So
they have to go through a training period postulancy, no

(18:53):
vision to specifically prepare them for that communal life, and
then they take homporary vows for example. It's an incremental system.
So you come in as a partial and I think
I want to do this. Then you know, if you
do okay as a partilant, then you're a novice. If
you do okay as a novice, you take temporary vows.

(19:13):
If you do okay in temporary vows, eventually you take
permanent vowls. Bishop ATTACKI argued can in law, stating that
for a novice to become a professed monk, they need
to be in that novice stage for at least three years,
and then they must profess their vows to someone who
has been in a director position for at least ten

(19:34):
years beyond that to get the title of abbott the
leader of a monastery. The eprichy argued law, saying that
a person needed to be a professed monk for at
least a decade. Bishop Attaki says his predecessor ignored these laws.
And to be clear here there's a difference between a
priest and a monk. They both make vows of chastity,

(19:56):
but monks also take vows of obedience to their order.
They also take a vow of poverty to own nothing.
All right, So there was the priest who was named
the abbot. He was in a seminary at one time,
it appears, studying, I think, for the Latin Church. This
guy had already been formed as a priest in the seminary.

(20:20):
The eparch gave him permission to establish a monastery and
added a second person for the establishment. However, the two
people that he gave permission to establish the monastery did
not go through the training and formation to become religious.

(20:40):
They did no partialance here Noviciat anywhere. They did not
make vows in any established house. Instead, the bishop said,
I'll take your vows. I'll make you religious. And the
one priest he took his vows one day without any
formation and appointed him abbot. He took the second and
one who was a deacon at the time, professed his

(21:03):
vows and ordained him to the priesthood, and said, the
two of you and our priest monks, and you can
embark on your mission of establishing a school. Bishop attack
he's vote him to the Vatican. Said that there was
something even simpler that the bishop before him ignored when
allowing them to create the monastery, a part of canon

(21:25):
law that's existed for more than a thousand years. They
didn't have enough members. So there's certain very very basic things.
If you want to start a religious order, a community,
a communal life, you have to start with at least three.
So that's number one. You have to start with lease three. Well,

(21:45):
at least goes back to St. Benedict in the information
of the Benedictive monasticism. But it's one of those common
sense things. Now, Jesus sent the disciples odd to by
two to preach, you need two people to go odd
to the world and read things because their support for
each other. But if you're going to seal yourself off
kind of from the world, two is not enough. You know,

(22:08):
if two guys want to vote that they're your monastery
is going to do something. One guy votes, one guy votes. Today,
there's nobody to break the tie. So what does common
sense tell you? You got to have a third guy
to break the tie. Father lou told us that it's
from here. Bishop Kentucky built the case against the monastery.
Monasteries are able to run themselves as a community. But

(22:30):
he told us that without having gone through the proper
process to become monks, or even having enough members to
start a monastery, Father Went and Father Damien would just
be a regular priest and the property they held would
fall under the direct control of the eper Keys authority.
So here's the analogy. You can try to bake a cake.

(22:52):
You get all your elements together, you mix it in
a bowl, you throw it any oven. It smells like
a cake. It looks like a cake when you tell
get on and eat it. You left something important not.
You didn't put milk in, you didn't put butter in,
you didn't put sugar in. And when you take a
taste of it, you say, it looks and smells like
a cake, but it ain't a cake. So the new

(23:15):
eparch says, this looked and smelled like a monastery, but
the assasial ingredients, the laws that it takes to establish
a monastery weren't there. Therefore it's not a monastery, and
they're not, and therefore he has governance and jurisdiction over
their property, their mission, and their lives because now they

(23:35):
are under the promise of obedience to go where he
sends them to work in a parish or whatever. Father
Lew told us that even though all these basic rules
were ignored, bishop did it hadn't done anything against Church law.
Bishops are like dictators, he said. They can really do
whatever they want until someone challenges that they're breaking a

(23:57):
universal law of the Church. In this case, that's what
the new Bishop Andrew Pataki was doing, challenging Bishop Duddick's
old decisions. Father Battaki recommended to the Vatican that the
Eparchy figure out what to do with the school and
the monastery, and he suggested Father went and Father Damien
stopped dressing as an abbot and a monk and be

(24:18):
reassigned somewhere else. Now, the eparch called them back to
the eparchy. You are not monks, you are priests of
bidass Come back and I'll give you a priestly job
to do. It appears they did not do that, but

(24:39):
they had already moved their property beyond the bishop's legal reach,
and they altered the school's mission to make it independent
from any church. So now you have rogue priests saying
they're accountable to no one. I mean, the bottom line
here is and it's it's really I've I've got a

(25:00):
laugh because this is also really really complicated, and to me,
it's really really simple. You have two guys who wanted
to do their own thing, and they manipulated a bishop
and the church in order to run their own con
and they seemed to have gotten away with it for

(25:20):
quite a while. These were conmen, These were sociopaths. These
are narcissists as I interpret their actions, So let me
be more precise. What they did was narcissistic behavior. What
they did was sociopathic behavior. What they did was manipulative behavior.

(25:47):
Now they may be saints, and them and God may
be in a lot better relationship than I have with God.
I don't know that's interior, but judging by behavior and
external actions, this was a big con. This was a
long con. This would make a better movie than The Stink.

(26:12):
Father Loose said he would expect the Vatican to favor
Bishop Attacki's ironclad case, But the only evidence of change
that came from Bishop attackis recommendations was that Holy Cross
Academy was removed from the directory of Catholic Schools. In
our search, we've come across records of independent on site
inspections made after the bishop reached out to the Vatican,

(26:36):
but we've never come across a record of any full
report or ruling from Rome, and the surviving lawyers who
led the investigation for the Vatican declined to comment on
the case. Even the state's prosecution and defense teams never
fully resolved the outcome of the eper Keys investigation. It
was a time before Catholic organizations were compelled by the

(26:59):
PO to cooperate with law enforcement. Mike's attorney, Edith Georgie
said her legal powers only stretched so far. We tried
in our investigation to get through to Patachi and his
New Jersey people, and many doors were closed. Now this
whole investigation by the apparchy was totally invisible to me

(27:22):
as a student at Holy Cross. I really knew nothing
about it until we started interviewing lawyers, digging through documents,
and watching the testimony of the monastic candidates. We asked
Mike what it was like to be behind the scenes
and inside the monastery as the investigation happened. Did they
ever tell you or talked to you about the relationship

(27:43):
with the bishop or the Aparchy of Passaic. Yes, they hated.
The bishop always said that it's one of the bishop
that he really wants to call it was school and monster,
and he didn't like the fact that to be there.
So I remember they're being stressed out, especially when the bishop,

(28:04):
who says somebody trying to inspect the school. I remember
they're being nervous about it. And you know, they would
coaches and teach us what to say when they interviewed us,
or remember so that us. Oh you were interviewed by
the upper key. Oh yeah, yeah, yes, at least one time.
And I remember to the people telling us, make sure

(28:27):
you know you never say that things about the school,
especially when I would say that you're sleeping, you know
in this bed spend time in increase the room, and
you know who would tell you that? I believe it
was for the people too decided said that then of
course for the one would address in general, tell us,

(28:47):
you know, say all good things about the school, amounster
and that bishop the church you know, destroyed a good thing.
You know, it would say make sure he paints the
art pisials. Really at that, do you remember who it
was and what they asked you? I don't know who
it was, no, but I remember asking me, you know,

(29:11):
how a use you know, do like being in the
monastery as the prison or you know, doing everything right
as the prison or trying and doing everything what they're
supposed to do, and you know, and then you know,
and I've answered those questions that everything is fine. Did
you feel like you wanted to be honest but you couldn't. Yeah,

(29:33):
but I couldn't. I just would help everything. And I
feel like if I said anything bad or anything and
the Prince will find out that be setting and that
you know, they would you know, asked me or just
keep me out of the place and just so yeah,
so I remember they were really kind of I remember

(29:54):
I went ordering me to help Pather get both to
put more icons on a all of this room and
hide the TV into the closet, put a bunch of
cloths on it, and take his kingsize bed and put
a single bed and father Damian Gibbald's bed. Mike says,

(30:19):
isn't the only one he was asked to hide. Even
over close Patrol always stayed over in Went's house. You
will stay in Went bad. They only had one bed
in went bed. But for example, if there was like inspection,
we'll coming in from an intrusive partake. I remember one
time I'm helping because one says the help Atrot move

(30:42):
this bad so it looked like Astrolly sleeping in tepe
of room. So they knew they were doing something wrong.
Oh yeah, of course, they say, okay, make sure because
this one room in Went's house. So there was nothing
but that but the whole bunch of garbage there not
like but the whole bunch of like bad is like parnition,
all picked up nothing. The room was unused. Butts said, okay,

(31:06):
so especially timing from his bishop from New Jersey's okay,
help before arrange it. Take the other thing a flute
room and put that in there. So it looks like
he's keeping in a separate room aside from being father
went assistant. Mike told us a lot about Petro Tornta's
relationship with the priest. He says that they lived in

(31:28):
the monastery and shared a bed, They traveled together, and
Petro acted as Wentz translator in Ukraine. Over the years,
they spent a lot of time together and they grew close.
But there was more to their relationship than anyone at
Holy Cross ever knew. Petro was Father went son. That's

(31:50):
coming up after a break. Welcome back to Sacred Scandal.

(32:11):
I'm Paula Burrows and I'm Melanie Bartley. The guy named
Petro was completely aligned with went and Damien and so
he was the hardest one, so to speak, to get
truthful information out of because you could tell he was
really in on the web that they had created. Um

(32:36):
she was bishop at This is Petro Taranta. He's being
questioned by defense attorney Ray Tassive about the Eparchy of
Passakes investigation into Holy Cross Academy. What we're bishop attacks concerns.
The only ware was thatship was not I think in

(33:00):
the Propavati the bishops who as I wanted to it
was very destructive. That's what very heard from Bishop Attack.
He had concerns that Father Abbott, the Father Beam and
we're not monks and we're not priest. I believe so
I think he was a mimoking and did Bishop Attack.

(33:20):
He had concerns that the monks, the priests at holy Cross,
we're not really Catholic. I can learn about that. Were
those expressed to you by Father Abbott? I think you're something,
Bishop Attack. He had concerns that what was happening at
holy Cross was not keeping with Catholicism. Correct. He was

(33:44):
trying to say that in general. I mean this is
what my knowledgists, which is very limited. The father imot
and I'm not real priests. A long ConfL Do you
know whether or not Bishop Tacky ordered and investigation of
the monastery all across to investigate the guardianship issues of

(34:07):
having thirteen ft fifteen year old boys at the monastery.
I don't know what the investigation was for or by
Whoman stories, but there was a long time that a
group of people came. They talked to Father Ion and
other school members. Well, they envous that the coverle of church.

(34:31):
They concluded that they suspended odership protactists acquisitions in Clemson.
They were on our side. That's for fact, the report issue,
but that wasn't very important. But that's what I know.
That's what you've been told, right, And he told you
that I believe Father Father. We wanted to pick up

(34:53):
here with Petro because though we've mentioned him a lot,
we've never really talked too much about him or his background.
He was one of the first monastic candidates at holy Cross.
We also know Petro was Father Went's assistant and spent
a lot of time in the monastery where Went lived.
Unlike some of the other candidates at holy Cross, Petro

(35:15):
had a bit of a different background. He wasn't from
a rural village, but grew up more middle class in
a small city. Both his parents worked, and he had
an uncle who was priest. Though the other boys didn't
have much contact with their parents beyond letters, Petro's family
became a part of holy Cross. His father and an

(35:36):
uncle were managers of the candidate's house in Ukraine. They
were paid to help keep it running and keep an
eye on the boys living there. Even investigators like Prosecutor
Gay Levine noticed something different about Petro one thing that
we saw was very interesting was Petro Taranta, who was

(35:56):
what we considered and what appeared to be the favorite
of Gregory Went. In fact, he lived most nights with
Gregory when he was one of the only ones that
had his own room in the candidates house. But we
saw that the bed didn't appear to be lived in
and the room didn't appear to be lived in. He
lived with the father. He lived with Gregory Went because
he studied later than the others, and he was supposed

(36:20):
to be like a servant or something. But it seemed
to me that they were staying together in the same room.
That's what it appeared to everyone. We thought that there
was just something wrong with that, and then he blurted
out that he had been adopted. The prosecution and defense
teams found Petro had been adopted by Father Abbott Went.

(36:42):
It happened around the same time that the Eperchy investigation
into holy Cross got under way. Mike's defense attorney, Rayed Tassive,
pushed Petro on the adoption and his relationship with father Went.
During testimony, father Abbott as quote, a perfect match is
that after him? Yes, what's your relationship to bother? Everyone

(37:10):
has about the sign whose idea wasn't dead. You become
his adopted sign Um Primarily, I would say, was his
idea and would benefit Did he tell you to do
it received by being his adopted sign? It was just

(37:33):
for my interest for the future, because it was aboutific compment.
Did he tell you that it could help you because
if the church was ever closed down or ceased to exist,
that you continue to have a relationship with him. We
didn't talk about it from the player. About that I
could see because it's computer. The reason, well, that's one

(37:54):
of the reasons he told you right. Well, the primiti
reason for the adoption was good relationship between him. I
mean if he liked me as his son for his
informations a holsome um here I was only father word
would want to best for his shot. I don't wanted
to make sure if something happens to him that if

(38:15):
I would be adopted, that wild be an advantage for him.
You loved you as a son, Yes, he used his
last name. I haven't usday for un I don't choose it.
So and he has he introduced you to other family
members as his son. Uh, probably to his mother Mr Taranto.

(38:39):
What year did you become his adopted son. I believe
it was not the age. You've been his adopted son
for four years. I know more much. That adoption happened
weeks before Petro's eighteenth birthday. Gail Levine, the assistant state attorney, said,

(39:00):
was something she never truly understood. It's very unusual to
have an adoption so late in life. And I could
not imagine why a monk would need to be a parent,
because really, a monkst job is to minister to everyone
in the church, and you're not supposed to have children.

(39:23):
You're supposed to take a vow of celibacy, just like
a priest, and a monaster candidate was giving up everything.
He was giving up his parents in Ukraine, So why
did he need to have a parent here? So initially
we thought maybe for purposes of immigration, but immigration told
us no, that wouldn't have mattered. So we knew that

(39:44):
that wasn't really the answer. And then the question was why,
And then we heard a rumbling about inheritance. Well, if
there was an a vow of poverty, why would there
be any inheritance? Like who inherits a church? We he
didn't know whether there was really an ulterior motive, So
that's really an unanswered question to us. Petro wasn't the

(40:08):
only monk the priest tried to adopt. Mike told us
and his lawyers that around the same time as Petro's adoption,
father Damien tried to adopt him too, and it came
up on one of the only two trips he took
home to Ukraine while visiting his parents. Yeah, because I
had to go and renew the visa. It was like

(40:30):
two years in or so, and uh, I had to
go and then for the get bold to adopt me,
and so they had to keep it like secret and
stuff this, you know, they said the reasons for it
would be easier from its big American resident. So so
but Soul, you don't see that happening at all, And

(40:51):
definitely the only ways like the monks of priests try
to adopt somebody, some younger boys to be that wherever.
Sound so unbelievable, So really we try to keep about us,
you know. I remember some me and pe both went
back to Ukraine pass for them to sign the papers,
and I remember thinking about my parents. I said, we

(41:13):
both wanted you to sign the papers, so I forget adopted.
But I remember telling them in the background, says, you know,
don't do it, don't don't sign You were telling your
parents not to sign it. Yes, yes, I don't sign it.
So at the end they didn't sign it. And of
course you both suspected I would say something like that

(41:34):
to them. I said, I never said it anything, and
he's like, oh, you weren't possession enough, And I don't care.
He was telling you that you weren't persuasive enough. Yes,
he was depending on you to convince your own parents
to let you get adopted. So why did he want
to adopt you? You think? Of course the reason they

(41:56):
would say was that be easier for me to be
a resident. But the point is that they were try
to pud up any other kids that were there at
the time. So anyway, the semi papers so they didn't. Yeah,
I was gonna ask what was your parents reaction when
they heard about the adoption? Of course it was like chakula,

(42:17):
what the hell's going to happen? And can I ask
you to your knowledge, are there any laws regarding a
monk being a parent or adopting a child? Legally a
monk would be difficult. I am aware of a few
diocesan priests who adopt it, I would say that it

(42:40):
would be impossible to take on the responsibilities of a parent,
either in civil law or in cannonball. A diostan priest
who only takes a promise of obedience and no vow
of poverty, and I personally know own half a dozen

(43:01):
priests who have adopted children. But for a monk, the
structure would not allow for it. A monk who owns nothing,
who is totally dependent because of his viol poverty on
the community, could not establish fiscal responsibility for a child.

(43:26):
A lot of the times, these people who have these
visions of founding in order finding a mission, you wonder
if that vision came from God or from their own narcissism.
You know, these are people who live in houses with
mirrors not windows. But the reason why we have so
many rules and regulations, that's called discernment. You have to

(43:48):
keep testing against it. So if this came from God,
you're not the only one who can discern this. Other
people have to look at it and say, yeah, this
looks like it comes from God, not from your personal ambition.
It's hard to hear about things like the eparchy's investigation,

(44:09):
the transferring of property, and the adoptions, and not think
that the priests of Holy Cross felt the rules of
the church and monastic living did not apply to them.
But by the time the original murder case was closed,
none of it would matter, because by the time Mike
finally received his sentence, the priests of Holy Cross would

(44:31):
no longer be Catholics. That's next time on Sacred Scandal.
Sacred Scandal is a production of Exile Content Studio in
partnership with I Heart Radios Michael Podcast Network. Sacred Scandal

(44:54):
was created and produced by Melanie Bartley and me Paula Borrows.
Our senior producer is Dennis Funk of Written in Air.
The executive producers are Rose Red and Nando Villa. Production
mixing and sound design by Helena de Groot. Our production

(45:14):
assistant is Imani Leonard. The show is fact checked by
Kimberly Winston. Original music and final audio mixing comes from
Patrick Hart and special thanks on this episode to Corey Chikowski,
Brian Robertson, and Travis Roig. If you'd like to reach out,

(45:35):
email us at hello at Sacred Scandal podcast dot com,
and you can follow us on Instagram at Sacred Scandal
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