Rev. Robert Barzyk
Basic Background Information
Birth: July 4, 1932, Nanticoke, PA
High School: 1946-1949, Owego Free School, Owego, NY
1950, St. Andrew's Seminary, Rochester, NY
College: 1952, St. Andrew's Seminary, Rochester, NY
1954, St. Bernard's Seminary, Rochester, NY
Seminary: 1954, St. Mary's Seminary, Houston, TX
Ordination: May 24, 1958
Death: March 10, 2007
Information on Clergy Disclosure List on the website of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Patterns and Practices
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (ADGH) released its Clergy Disclosure list on January 31, 2019. Rev. Robert R. Barzyk is the second priest named after the previously reported on Rev. Neal Antle. Barzyk's assignments are listed, but there are no dates. There is no information on when and where the abuse occurred, or when the Archdiocese received the complaint. The information provided by the ADGH includes the names of the parishes to which he was assigned, his year of birth, year of ordination, retirement year (1993) and the fact that he was removed from ministry in 1994.
After reviewing archival documents and researching the history of Rev. Barzyk, one can make an educated guess at when and where he had issues based on the pattern and practices the Church employs when shuffling priests who sexually abuse minors.
It is important to note that the Archdiocese doesn't include a priest on the list unless a complaint is formally submitted. However, when examining the predators now known, a pattern emerges of their migration through the diocese. It is likely that the Archdiocese knew about the aberrant behavior of these priests - formal complaint or not. This would explain why Barzyk was transferred six times in 35 years, each transfer approximately 70 miles from the last assignment.
Barzyk graduated from St. Mary's Seminary in Houston in 1958 and was ordained by Bishop Wendolyn Nold on May 24, 1958 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Galveston.
St. Mary's Seminary moved to Houston from LaPorte in 1954 and Robert Barzyk was part of the first group of students to move in and study at the newly built seminary.
At that time, St. Mary's Seminary typically required eight years of studies. The seminarians progressed through a four year curriculum of undergraduate courses leading to a bachelor's degree, and then four years of sacred theology courses to prepare them for ordination. Some seminarians, like Barzyk, transferred to St. Mary's after taking college courses elsewhere.
The Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin profiled Barzyk May 13, 1958 describing his upcoming ordination. Barzyk was from Central New York and attended St. Andrew's Seminary in Rochester for his first two years of college. He then took a two-year course in philosophy before transferring to St. Mary's for his four years of sacred theology courses.
Barzyk's 1958 Graduation Class Photo
Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD
It is odd that Barzyk did not return to his home diocese after he was ordained. Usually the diocese that sponsors a seminarian (i.e. pays for his education) receives the ordained priest back as an active pastor, thereby recouping their investment. But Barzyk only returned to Owego, New York to celebrate his first mass after being ordained. His family lived in Owego and yet, he returned and remained in Houston for his 35 years of active ministry.
Barzyk lived and took courses at St. Mary's Seminary from 1954-1958. During that time, he lived and studied in close quarters with the men who were ordained in 1955 (the end of his first year) through 1965 (who were freshmen during Barzyk's last year of 1958).
On average each year, there were about 100 students total during Barzyk's time at the seminary, split equally between undergraduate and postgraduate students. The St. Mary's Seminary Catalogue for the Scholastic Year 1955-1956 shows there were 49 students enrolled in the undergraduate college and 54 in sacred theology.
After studying and living in close quarters, it is reasonable to assume that the priests from St. Mary's Seminary knew each other well. There weren't that many of them enrolled to begin with, and through attrition the number who actually finished and were ordained was an even smaller cohort: There were 126 men from St. Mary's Seminary ordained from 1955 to 1965 - an average of 11 graduates/ordinations a year.
The interesting piece of his higher education and preparation for the priesthood is that of those 126 men ordained that Barzyk lived and studied with, 10 were named by Texas dioceses as having been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor; 8 percent of the 126 ordinations.
Of note is the fact that Barzyk's time in the seminary overlapped with 10 other priests named by Texas dioceses as having been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor; 8 percent of the 126 ordinations during his time in seminary.
on the ADGH list: Rev. Joseph Leduc (class of 1955), Rev. Robert Barzyk, (class of 1958), Rev. Jesse Linam (class of 1960) and Rev. David Burns, (class of 1961)
That percentage is notable considering the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released its 2017 Annual Report stating that the conference counted 6,721 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors from 1950 to June 30, 2016, or 5.8 percent of the total number of priests (116,690) for that time period.
The percentage of credibly accused St. Mary's alumni priests is higher than the national average.
That same time period at St. Mary's also produced two influential and powerful prelates in Texas. The 1956 class yielded two bishops: The Archbishop of San Antonio, His Eminence Patrick Flores and the Bishop of Austin, His Eminence John McCarthy.
The interesting thing about Barzyk is that in 1965 while he was assigned to Holy Name Catholic Church in Houston, he purchased a house in the Shoreacres subdivision of LaPorte, Texas overlooking Galveston Bay.
His home was not far from the Houston Yacht Club, but it was 32 miles away from his assigned parish of Holy Name Catholic Church at 1917 Cochran in downtown Houston. Barzyk kept this home his entire life, paying off the mortgage in 1982. His brother inherited the property when Barzyk died in 2007.
Harris County Clerk's Office shows the original date of the Warranty Deed (image below) as May 28, 1965. Harris County Appraisal District shows Rev. Robert Barzyk in the ownership history of the property.
The directories for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston list Barzyk and his Shoreacres address beginning in 1994; the year he was allegedly removed from ministry.
Barzyk's parents were reported as living at the Shoreacres address, but the deed was in Rev. Robert R. Barzyk's name. Barzyk's parents didn't live in Houston when he purchased the house in 1965. They were still living in Owego, NY through 1967 and moved to Texas sometime before July 18, 1971. Rev. Barzyk's brother moved to the area and joined the Deer Park Police Department in May 1970, so perhaps the parents moved to Texas at the same time. In any event, Barzyk had been a parish priest for seven years when he bought a vacation home that was 30 miles away from his assignment. That is not the typical behavior of newly ordained priests.
Property Record Transactions of Rev. Robert R. Barzyk
Harris County Clerk, www.cclerk.hctx.net. Retrieved February 15, 2019
Map from Barzyk's Assigned Parish in 1965 to his Newly Purchased Home
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Screenshot Map data ©2019 Google
Transfers, Livestock and Honorific Titles
In July 1971, Barzyk was transferred to St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Baytown after only three years at Holy Family in Wharton. The parishes were 80 miles apart. The Baytown Sun newspaper reported on the arrival of the new priest at St. Jude's. In the interview Barzyk revealed that at that time he owned two quarter horses and 12 Chalais Cattle that he kept pastured in Wharton.
Owning specialized French cattle is not the typical behavior of a parish priest (who grew up in New York).
Although the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Clergy Disclosure list is sparse on dates, a review of Official Catholic Directories for Barzyk's active years (1958-1993) shows that his assignments zigzagged across the city.
He started out in the downtown Houston parish, Holy Name, staying eight years (1958-1966). It was during this time that he bought the home in Shoreacres. In 1961 another credibly accused priest joined him at Holy Name, for one year only, Rev. Joseph Tully.
The diocese transferred Barzyk 50 miles South to Sacred Heart Church in Galveston, but only for one year. That short lived assignment, 60 miles away from his previous parish, sticks out so much that one might infer the transfer was the result of some sort of problem at Holy Name. Possibly.
After Galveston, he was transferred 100 miles West to Holy Family Church in Wharton. The lasted three years there working not only as the parish priest, but was also the chaplain at the Newman Center at Wharton Junior College. It was in Wharton that Barzyk pastured his horses and cattle.
In 1971, he was transferred out of Wharton 80 miles East to Baytown, Texas. Closer to his home in Shoreacres, and to his policeman brother in Deer Park.
He lasted five years at St. Jude's before being transferred 60 miles West to Holy Rosary Church in Rosenberg in 1977. It was at Holy Rosary that Barzyk had the most success. In 1977 he was named the dean of the Western Deanery. Also known as the head of priests in Stafford, Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Wharton, Needville and Beasley. Perhaps this was an incentive or compensation of sorts for transferring him yet again. It came with an upgrade to his title: he was then made a Very Reverend to reflect his position as dean.
As dean, Barzyk was given the title V.F., which stands for Vicar Forane. The Catholic Culture website explains that the V.F. is an experienced priest appointed by a bishop to exercise limited administrative oversight of a specific part of a diocese. He is charged with the care of sick clergy, supervises clerical discipline and diocesan property as well as other matters.
In 1979 when he was 46 years old, Barzyk received the title, Monsignor. Rev. Kenneth Doyle of Catholic News Service defined the title for CatholicPhilly.com in 2017, "The title bestowed on a priest who has distinguished himself by exceptional service to the church. It is a title granted by the pope — typically, upon the recommendation of the priest’s diocesan bishop. It is a purely honorary title and has no effect on the priest’s duties or ministerial assignment."
The Bishop who recommended Barzyk: His Eminence John L. Morkovsky. The title was a reward, but for what, we don't know. We do know Barzyk was credibly accused of sexual abuse.
We don't know when he committed the abuse, but with the zigzagging of his appointments across the city, separated anywhere from 50 to 100 miles, it is reasonable to assume that he offended at each parish to which he was assigned because the extensive distance between each parish indicates he was being sent far far away.
It also indicates the Bishop knew he had problems at each parish. Why else would each assignment be 70 miles away from the last? Maybe he cleaned up his act in Rosenberg and Morkovsky gave him a pat on the back with the Monsignor title. Or, maybe there were other reasons.
La Stampa Vatican Insider reported that the awarding of Monsignor titles was curtailed in 2014 when Pope Francis abolished the awarding of the title of Monsignor on secular priests under the age of 65.
Questions for Further Inquiry
If Barzyk was removed from ministry in 1994, why was he included in the 1997 Diocese of Galveston-Houston Pictorial Roster? His photo and the fact he is listed implies he was not removed from ministry.
When did the Archdiocese first become aware Barzyk was sexually abusing minors?
Why did Barzyk live in his own personal home instead of the Diocesan Retirement home?
The table below shows Barzyk's known assignments and pertinent information. All assignment histories are from the Official Catholic Directory.
Pictorial Roster Diocese Galveston-Houston 1997
Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD