FBI Investigating Attack on Indiana Priest

In northwest Indiana the FBI is now taking the lead, after a Catholic priest was attacked earlier this week and the abuse crisis appears to be the motive.

The attack occurred in Merrillville, Indiana and  has shocked those close to the priest. It happened as priest sex abuse allegations dominate the headlines. Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich is in Ireland and told reporters there a lot of damage has been done, but the primary focus should be on the victims.

At St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church in Merrillville, Rev. Basil Hutsko had just said prayers at the altar Monday morning about 9 a.m., returned to the sacristy where a man grabbed him from behind. The attacker wore gloves, choked and beat the 64-year-old priest's head against the floor repeatedly. Published reports say Hutsko told police the intruder said "this is for all the kids."

Hutsko has not been named nor is believed to be involved in any priest sex abuse allegations. He is hospitalized and friends say he is in serious condition. The Merrillville police have turned the case over to the FBI as a potential hate crime.

This happened weeks after publicity over retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was removed as a cardinal amidst allegations he abused seminarians. Also, last week a Philadelphia grand jury unveiled 1,000 children were victims of priest abuse over 70 years.

Pope Francis arrives in Ireland Friday where there is also outraged over priest abuse.

Cupich, in Ireland for the pope's visit, met with reporters Thursday. He said this is a "very black moment" for the church and "the real darkness is the victims, that's where we need to go."

Cupich addressed the abuse crisis in a letter last week. Chicago priests received a new letter Thursday from Bishop-elect Ron Hicks encouraging them to publish the cardinal's letter in bulletins and parish websites.

There is a movement, however, for attorney generals in the other 49 states to follow Pennsylvania's lead and investigate priest abuse, rather than the church internally.

The Missouri attorney general announced Thursday that its office will open a state wide priest sex abuse probe after victims requested it. The Archdiocese of St. Louis says it will cooperate and open its files.

NBC 5 contacted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office here to see if the same will happen here. Her spokesman says she will stay in touch but has nothing yet to report.

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