Indiana priest assaulted at church in possible hate crime, police say

A 64-year-old Catholic priest was brutally beaten Monday morning by an assailant hiding in the shadows of an Indiana church -- and the attacker's stark message to the clergyman before he "blacked out" has prompted a request to the FBI to probe the assault as a potential hate crime.

"This is for all the kids," the unidentified person told the Rev. Basil John Hutsko as the attacker repeatedly hit Hutsko's head on the floor of a darkened St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church, officials said.

Authorities believe the remark was in reference to the clergy child sex abuse scandal, prompting police to alert the FBI Merrillville office. More than 300 priests were accused of sexually abusing about 1,000 children during the past 70 years in several Pennsylvania diocese, according to a report released last week -- but Hutsko wasn’t named in the report and hasn't been linked to it in any way.

Hutsko was taken to a hospital for treatment, Merrillville Detective Cmdr. Jeff Rice said. His condition wasn’t immediately known.

“He’s a good priest and like everybody said, he’s not accused of anything,” the Rev. Steven Koplinka from St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish in Munster told the Post-Tribune. “Why attack him?”

A suspect in the assault wasn’t immediately identified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.