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  Diocese Target of Abuse Lawsuit
Woman Claims Local Priest Molested Her

By Felisa Cardona
San Bernardino [CA] Sun
December 6, 2002

Sandy Graves remembers the priest holding her and telling her she was special.

The 9-year-old believed that if she did whatever he asked of her, shewould be seen as a faithful Catholic and meet her dead father at the last resurrection.

Graves says she was repeatedly molested four decades ago by a priestat her Fontana parochial school. On Friday, she filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court alleging negligent retention and supervision, childhood sexual abuse, sexual battery, fraud and conspiracy against the San Bernardino and San Diego dioceses.

She is seeking general, medical and punitive damages for the sexualabuse she says she suffered.

Graves, 49, of Oceanside, won the right to sue when the Legislatureexpanded the statute of limitations in June, allowing victims of long-past sexual abuse to seek amends.

She first sued in 1993, but a judge dismissed the case because thealleged molestation had occurred too long ago.

In June, Graves went to Sacramento and testified before the stateSenate Judiciary Committee about her experience.

"There wasn't one single nay vote,' she said. "It was remarkable.'

Graves says she was molested between 1962 and 1964 at ResurrectionAcademy in Fontana by the Rev. Adalbert Kowalczyk.

She called him Father Al.

Graves declined to go into detail about the incidents, but herattorney, Raymond P. Boucher of Beverly Hills, said the abuse involved more than touching.

Kowalczyk died on July 10, 1972, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln,spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese.

"I hope he is in a really warm place,' Graves said.

Kowalczyk's assignments included St. Hedwig Mission, St. Mary of theAngels and St. Hyacinth, all Catholic churches in Chicago from 1952-56.

After his 1957-64 term at Resurrection Academy, Kowalczyk served atSt. Hedwig Church and St. Stanislaus Kostka in Chicago from 1964 until his death.

"Father Al spent a long time in Chicago going from parish toparish,' Graves said, "and then he was shipped out here.

"He was here until the abuse was reported and he was sent back toChicago and served in two parishes after that. I would guess that they moved him to California for a reason.'

Graves said six other girls were molested at the school.

"One of the other kids told her aunt, and her aunt told her dad,'she said. "Parents were notified amongst each other. The church wasn't going to do anything.

"My stepdad said he threatened to get the police involved and thechurch just sent ... [Kowalczyk] off. The parish was never notified and never told why.'

Graves said Kowalczyk was charismatic and had a major role inbuilding the church.

"When he first was assigned to the church, there was no church,'she said. "Mass was held in the rectory, which is the priest's home.'

Graves said her family was devoted to the church, involved in somesort of activity nearly every single day.

"It was like the center core of our lives,' she said.

Graves said Kowalczyk started "grooming' her and her family to trusthim.

"He was coming to our house for dinner and the holidays,' she said."We were always sent over to help the priests stuff envelopes. When you are a kid, you want to be special. I thought it was special to go over to the priest's house to stuff envelopes.'

Graves' father died while she was in her mother's womb.

"I thought I would get to meet my dad at the last resurrection,'Graves said. "The ... [priests] know who to pick. They know what kind of families to pick on.'

Graves said she didn't talk about the incidents until she was 37 andin therapy for infertility problems.

"I had managed to compartmentalize it,' she said. "It was just sostuck away into a safe place until that point.'

When she was 9, she would daydream in school to separate herself fromthe experience.

"I would just space out as a kid,' she said.

Resurrection Academy, staffed by the Congregation of the Resurrection,a small order of priests based in Chicago, was operated by the San Dieog Diocese of San Diego.

Graves' suit accuses diocesan officials of conspiring to cover up theabuse.

The defendants "conspired and came to a meeting of the minds wherebythey would misrepresent, conceal or fail to disclose information relating to the sexual misconduct of ... [Kowalczyk],' the lawsuit states.

The San Bernardino Diocese was created in 1978, 16 years after thealleged molestations occurred.

"We were not a diocese until 1978 and we were not a diocese when thistook place,' Lincoln said. "We cannot comment on the lawsuit because we have not reviewed it.'

If Graves decided to seek help from the San Bernardino Diocese,Lincoln said, diocesan officials would offer their services to her, including counseling.

"What she is really seeking more than anything else is to makesure no other child is abused in the future,' Boucher said. "She wants enough to get adequate counseling and help during her lifetime.'

Boucher said the alleged molestation had a significant emotionalimpact on Graves.

"This is something she has carried with her for many years,' hesaid. "As an adult she can fully cope with it and let other survivors know it is not their fault.

"Together, survivors can take back the power and dignity. They cancertainly make the young lives of others better by coming forward.'

 
 

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