An Indiana priest was attacked and beaten unconscious inside a church in Merrillville by an unknown assailant Monday.

Rev. Basil Hutsko was beaten at St. Michael’s Byzantine Church in Merrillville as he was getting ready to perform liturgy, the customary public worship, at around 9 a.m. EDT. Rev. Steven Koplinka, of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish in Munster, who had knowledge of the matter, told Chicago Tribune that Hutsko “got attacked from the back and he didn’t see who it was.”

Rev. Thomas Loya, who communicated with Hutsko following the attack, said: “[He said] the attacker grabbed him, choked him and threw him to the ground and knocked him unconscious. He was wearing gloves. Father Basil does not know who it was, but while he was attacking him, he heard the attacker say, ‘This is for all the kids.’”

The unknown attacker’s words led Hutsko to believe the incident was prompted by Pennsylvania’s grand jury report early this month which accused the Roman Catholic Church of covering up more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse by over 300 priests, since the 1940s.

Hutsko’s name was not mentioned in the report. In fact, both Koplinka and Loya said Hutsko was innocent of any wrongdoing that the attacker might have pegged him for.

“He’s a very dedicated priest and hardworking and in good standing, it’s just a random act of an innocent priest,” Loya said, while Koplinka said, “It’s just like they’re targeting the wrong guys, you know? The rest of us try our best to be good priests and unfortunately this happened.”

Hutsko was rushed to the nearest hospital following the attack and underwent a series of tests to determine the extent of his injuries. His exact condition is not known but Rev. Andrew Summerson said he had visited the victim in the hospital and although “very shooken [sic] up” Hutsko was recovering well.

Merrillville police spokesman Commander Jeff Rice said when they were called around 11:30 a.m. EDT to file a report, Hutsko appeared to be “definitely bruised and banged up.” Since they were treating the case as a hate crime, Rice said the FBI Merrillville office was informed.

“We’re looking at all avenues and checking the area for other surveillance with area businesses,” Rice said.

In the light of the recent attack in Merrillville, the priests have become more vigilant, even having a couple of people to stand guard at the church gates during Tuesday’s prayer.

“You can’t let something like this frustrate or spoil all the good work that the church needs to do in the world,” Summerson said. “The last thing you need to do in the world is be afraid.”

Loya said Hutsko wasn’t the first priest to be attacked following the Catholic priests’ sex abuse scandal going public and they don’t expect him to be the last victim. Local news station WGN reportedly discovered a blog where Hutsko’s attack was mentioned, with the writer urging his followers to “beat up some priests.” It is not clear if the blogger was related to the attacker in anyway.

However, Summerson said he understood why people would be prompted to resort to violence against priests, despite the fact that it was not the right path to follow.

“It’s a real tragedy certainly what’s going on in a national level. There’s a lot of sins of our past. We have to take responsibility for it. We can’t pretend it’s not our problem,” Summerson said. “At the same time, it’s crushing to bear the weight of hatred. There’s justice on the one hand and there’s unbridled hatred on the other hand.”

In response to the report released by the Pennsylvania grand jury regarding the sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis said in a statement early this month: “It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.”