Revelations: Faith Betrayed (Part 1)
By Megan Baldino
KTUU [St. Michael AK]
January 31, 2005
St. Michael, Alaska - When Alaska's bishops met in Anchorage in February last year, they came together to divulge the scope of clergy sex abuse in Alaska. One bishop said he never imagined that the problem in his diocese was only just beginning.
In what is now the largest clergy sex abuse lawsuit, 34 men claim a deacon raped them hundreds of times as children. They're now suing the Diocese of Fairbanks.
Just off the coast of Norton Sound, an old Catholic Church stands tall, among plywood and log homes that make up the village of St. Michael, home to 400 people. Early missionaries talked about how easy it was to convert the people here to Christianity. They were already deeply spiritual. It wasn't long before the church became the center of their world.Peter Kobuk, 45, is a devout Catholic. He's lived in St. Michael his entire life. When he was young, he spent half his day at public school and then crossed the road and spent the rest of his day at St. Michaels Church.
These days, Kobuk rarely comes this close to the old church. He was hoping it would be torn down years ago. Instead, the church looms over the village as a constant reminder of the horrible things that many say happened here years ago.
"It does bring back a lot of painful memories," Kobuk says. "But when I want to pray to God, I have to black it out and let it go for at least an hour."
Even now Kobuk's faith is as strong as ever. He prays often for strength. His life has not been easy. He was raised by his oldest sister, who had her own struggles and eventually committed suicide. At first the church was his refuge. His dream was to receive first communion, be confirmed and become an altar boy.
Dreams only one man could help him achieve. "I knowed him as Deacon Joseph Lundowski."
Kobuk says he first met Joseph Lundowski in 1971, and as far as he could tell Lundowski ran the church, teaching catechism, saying Mass and sometimes consecrating the host. Kobuk says he remembers Lundowski’s shaved head and blue eyes, and big, strong build. But most of all Kobuk remembers what he says Lundowksi did to him beginning when he was 12 years old.
"After he got done teaching catechism, he asked me to wait for him in the kitchen and he said he wanted to talk to me. And after everybody left, he went out to make sure the doors were locked. He came to one where there was a window on the door. He pulled the shade down. And he didn't say very much but he asked me to go into the bedroom with him and I asked him what he want to do with me in the bedroom. And he dragged me with force and he raped me," says Kobuk, who’s listed as James Doe 18 in the court documents.
Kobuk says the abuse continued for days, weeks, months, and then years -- and he wasn't the only one.
"Yeah, he is doing it every day to me and a bunch of other boys." All of it taking place inside the church. "Right there is the bedroom, right here. That’s where all the molesting went on for me and others," he says, pointing to a window from outside.
Kobuk explains how it happened. He says he and his friends would be taken into a chamber right outside Lundowski's bedroom. They called it the "monkey room" -- a place where the boys would play cards and eat special treats, like candy and cake.
It was, they say now, Lundowski's way of luring them in. They say Lundowski even gave them money from the church collection plate.
Once the boys were in place, Lundowski would choose one or several to be taken into his bedroom where, they say, they were sexually abused. "It’s more of a house of hell for me than a house of prayer," Kobuk says.
A deep hell that many boys -- now men -- say they've never been able to escape. Currently, 34 are listed as victims in a lawsuit filed against the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska, the Society of Jesus - Oregon Province and the Society of Jesus - Alaska. All of them claim Lundowski sexually assaulted them.
Theodore Atchack is among them. He is James Doe 20 in the lawsuit. "He asked me if I like it, and I say, ‘How come you do this to me?" And then I was half crying, and he said, ‘Don't cry. Don't cry.’"
For Teddy, the pain still haunts him. "My mom look at me and she say, ‘How come you are crying, son?’ I couldn't tell her what happened to me in school."
He never did, and his friends never did. But all that is about to change.
Both the Catholic Diocese in Fairbanks and the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province or the Jesuits say they have no records of Joseph Lundowski, other than that he was a lay volunteer who served in some of the village churches.
As for why none of the men have come forward before this year, Peter Kobuk says he did, in fact, tell several church leaders in the mid-1980s but no one would believe him.
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