Officials kept St. Paul priest in ministry after sex abuse revelations, documents indicate
By Emily Gurnon
July 23, 2014
|Michael George Kolar |
Michael G. Kolar, a former priest who directed the Catholic Youth Center in St. Paul, was kept in ministry even after officials learned he had sexually abused underage girls beginning in the 1970s, according to documents released Wednesday as part of a lawsuit.
The documents also reveal Kolar told officials that Monsignor J. Jerome Boxleitner, the former head of Catholic Charities in the Twin Cities, tried to rape him at his lake cabin when Kolar was in seminary. Boxleitner died in 2013.
Kolar, 70, asked to be removed from the priesthood in 1992. He later married and currently lives in St. Paul.
One woman alleged in a 1991 lawsuit that she was abused by Kolar beginning in 1972 when she went on a retreat to the Catholic Youth Center as a 10th-grader. That suit was dismissed after a judge determined the statute of limitations had run out.
The "progressive conduct" by Kolar included "leaves stuffed inside (her) shirt by Kolar in the course of a co-ed touch football game; back rubs on retreats, first above (her) clothing and then underneath her nightshirt; good morning kisses when (she) was alone, all of which occurred before she was 16," according to a Jan. 16, 1992, letter from the woman's attorney to Kolar's lawyer.
He eventually progressed to having intercourse with her in his private quarters at the Catholic Youth Center while she was still a minor, the letter said.
"Kolar's deception involved convincing (her) that he was hopelessly confused and incapable of choosing between the two loves in his life: the Church and her," the letter said.
Kolar later described his encounters with women this way: "As I look back on all of that now, I see that I was simply using them ... because of my sexual needs," he wrote in his 1992 petition to leave the priesthood.
Attorney Jeff Anderson released the documents Wednesday. He obtained them from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis this year as part of a lawsuit by a man who alleges former priest Thomas Adamson molested him in 1996 and 1997 in St. Paul Park.
The plaintiff, identified as John Doe 1, alleges that officials of the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona created a "public nuisance" by concealing information about abusive priests from the public and keeping them in ministry. Anderson successfully argued in court that church officials should have to release the files of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of children.
The archdiocese released Kolar's name in February as a result of a clergy file review by Kinsale Management Consulting, a Los Angeles agency it hired.
Two additional women sued Kolar separately in 1990, alleging he sexually abused them when they were vulnerable 19-year-olds.
Kolar was ordained in 1969 and worked at the Catholic Youth Center on Smith Avenue in St. Paul from that year until 1988. He also served as a priest at St. Raphael's Church in Minneapolis in 1969 and 1970, records show. In 1988, he was placed on medical leave and sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, a church-sponsored treatment center for priests accused of sexual abuse.
Kolar attributed his misconduct, in part, to his abuse by Boxleitner in the 1960s.
At the time, he was performing an internship at Catholic Charities, where Boxleitner was director, Kolar wrote in his petition for laicization.
"He became very much like a father to me," he wrote. "I respected him greatly." Kolar's own father had died when he was 3.
One day, Boxleitner took Kolar to his lake cabin and "tried to rape me."
The experience "(gave) me permission to take care of my sexual problems provided that I did it covertly," Kolar wrote. "That is the way (Boxleitner) handled his sexuality; I was, thus, taught that that was the way I could handle mine."
In 1995, Kolar complained to archdiocese officials that he should not be required to pay back his legal fees "because he sees a cause and effect relationship between his own subsequent behavior and his traumatic episode with Boxleitner," according to a note that then-Archbishop John Roach wrote after a meeting with the former priest.
The archdiocese made the same deal with accused priest Joseph Wajda, who had himself been abused by a priest, Kolar had argued to Roach. "That much is true," Roach wrote.
A woman who answered the phone at Kolar's home said he was unavailable. He did not return the call.
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said in a written statement Wednesday that the archdiocese permanently removed Kolar from ministry in 1991 and that he was "removed from the clerical state" in 1993.
"We offer our assurances that today we handle things differently regarding priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor," Cozzens wrote.
Former archdiocesan chancellor of canonical affairs Jennifer Haselberger wrote in an affidavit that she argued with the Rev. Kevin McDonough at the time of Boxleitner's death about the type of funeral he would receive, given his history. (Boxleitner's name is redacted from the affidavit, which was filed in the Doe 1 case last week, but other documents make it clear she was referring to him.)
Haselberger was out of town at the time of Boxleitner's death, on March 14, 2013, but she emailed her colleagues to say "there were substantiated allegations" against him involving sexual contact with seminarians. His funeral should be "dignified, but also should avoid the full pomp and circumstances that might otherwise follow the death of a person of his public stature," Haselberger wrote.
But Haselberger said her cautions were ignored. Rather than reviewing Boxleitner's file, then-Vicar General Peter Laird asked McDonough about the allegations; McDonough assured him that "the accusations had been found to be untrue."
When Haselberger criticized McDonough in an email about that statement, he said he was referring to allegations involving minors. She told him she thought he was "drawing the line a little too thin," given that the accusers were in their late teens and early 20s and that Boxleitner had had an existing relationship to them: They had served as altar boys when he was pastor of their parish.