"I Want Them to See Me': Jesuit Prep Alum Suing Dallas School over Priest Sex Abuse Sheds Anonymity
September 21, 2019
|Mike Pedevilla is suing Jesuit Prep alleging that Patrick Koch, a priest and former president of the school, molested him in the 1980s when he was a student there.(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)|
Mike Pedevilla has done a lot out of love for Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas since he graduated in 1983: He raised money. He organized alumni events. He stayed in close contact with his classmates.
And, last month, Pedevilla sued Jesuit and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas under the pseudonym John Doe, alleging he was molested by a priest and former president of the school when he was a student there in the 1980s.
The lawsuit names the priest, the Rev. Patrick Koch, a former Jesuit president who died in 2006 at the age of 78. And come next week it will name Pedevilla, who's decided to cast off his anonymity.
The Jesuits’ motto, Pedevilla said, is to be “men for others.” And that, he said, is exactly what he's doing by filing the lawsuit and revealing his identity.
"There may be some that say, 'Mike, what are you doing to Jesuit? I can't believe you're going to make this public, and you're going to deface Jesuit,' " Pedevilla said, sitting at his dining room table at his home in Grapevine.
|The Rev. Patrick Koch was a former president of Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)|
But there's a different way of looking at what he's doing, he said.
"I am going to be a man for others, again, for the voices that can't stand up for themselves, but also for the voices yet to even walk through the doors of Jesuit, and in a bigger way, the Diocese of Dallas. Because it's in that vein that I want to make the change.”
Koch was named in January as "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children by both the Dallas and Corpus Christi dioceses. He never faced criminal charges in the sex scandal and is not included in a similar list released by the Jesuits in December.
Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns has said previously that a priest's inclusion on the list means "that we would believe it is true that an abuse has taken place." Even without a criminal conviction, an investigation can determine if the accusation is "plausible," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Dallas Diocese declined to comment, she said, because The Dallas Morning News would not reveal Pedevilla's name before publication. His attorneys, Brent Walker and Charla Aldous, said they will add his name to the lawsuit next week.
Jesuit President Michael A. Earsing declined to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit.
“We continue to offer our deepest sympathy and support for all victims of sexual misconduct and abuse,” Earsing said in a brief statement. “It would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of the John Doe lawsuit at this time.”
In January, Earsing wrote a letter to the "friends of Jesuit" about Koch's inclusion on the Dallas Diocese list.
"It is with great dismay to see the appearance on the list of Father Patrick H. Koch, S.J. A 1944 graduate of Jesuit, Fr. Koch later served as principal (1972-79), president (1979-80), and director of alumni (1980-86)," Earsing wrote. "He remained a part of the Jesuit community until his death in 2006. Please know that our administration will seek spiritual guidance as we further consider the school's response to this news."
Some who knew Pedevilla well figured out that he was the 54-year-old man who told The News about the lawsuit's allegations that he was sexually abused by Koch.
But that’s not why he’s coming forward with his name and photo now. Pedevilla said that unlike others, he’s in a position to stand up and be known. He also wants his lawsuit to push the church to make changes that were promised but never delivered, he said.
“I want to sit this close, face to face, with Jesuit and the parties representing Jesuit and the Diocese of Dallas,” Pedevilla said. “I want them to see me and have to look me in the eyes and talk to me. I want to reveal, I want to expose the practices at Jesuit and throughout the Dallas Diocese.”
And, Pedevilla said, that his lawsuit isn’t only about him. He wants the lawsuit to force Jesuit, the Dallas Diocese and the Church to come clean. He says that despite all the attention on sexual abuse by priests and the subsequent cover-up, the Catholic Church still hasn’t opened up.
Dallas police raided the Dallas Diocese offices for records in May after Dallas Police Detective David Clark said the church stonewalled police efforts to obtain evidence about abuse allegations.
Pedevilla said the abuse occurred when he was a sophomore but, looking back, he said, Koch began laying the groundwork when Pedevilla was a freshman. Pedevilla got tuition assistance in exchange for working at the school. That included answering the phones in the priests’ residence in the evenings.
He said the abuse led to suicidal thoughts, poor grades, a decades-long crisis of faith, difficulties with trust and long-term relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse.
During his sophomore year, Pedevilla recalled, he was pulled out of class to meet with Koch. The priest had served as the president of the school but was a counselor at the time. Koch was still working out of the president's office.
Koch turned out the lights and told him to “get comfortable,” Pedevilla said.
The priest sat down on the floor and crossed his legs and told Pedevilla to do the same.
“He scooted closer," Pedevilla said. "We were basically kneecap to kneecap."
Then, Pedevilla said, Koch told him to close his eyes and count backward from 10.
|Mike Pedevilla alleges in a lawsuit that the Rev. Patrick Koch sexually abused him when he was a student at Jesuit Prep. (Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)|
"I felt this wet kiss right on my lips," Pedevilla said. "I recoiled and just kind of looked at him."
Koch told him everything was OK, Pedevilla said.
"It's at that point where I don't recall what happened after that," he said. "I don't recall leaving the office. I don't really recall anything throughout the rest of the course of that school day."
Pedevilla said he always knew "something" happened with Koch. But he didn't know exactly what.
He started to remember some of what happened late last year after the Dallas Diocese said it would release a list of accused priests. Then, Jesuit released a list that did not include Koch. Pedevilla said he was angered by that omission.
He said he felt vindicated when Koch appeared on the lists of "credibly accused" priests released by the Dallas and Corpus Christi dioceses. The lists didn't detail the type of allegations or how many there were for each priest.
"I think that might have been all I needed," Pedevilla said. "But that was very short-lived."
Then another Jesuit alum, who graduated the year before Pedevilla, began talking on social media about trying to clear Koch's name.
Pedevilla said he thought about it for days. Then he came home and told his wife: "I can't stand here and do nothing. I'm not going to let this happen."
She told him to do what he needed and that she'd support him.
He originally thought he could just write a letter and the move to clear Koch’s name would stop. Then, he said, he realized that was naive and he needed to take legal action.
The alum working on behalf of Koch’s family is Dallas attorney David Finn. He also helped the family find a lawyer at the Vatican to attempt to clear Koch’s name.
|Attorney David Finn is trying to help Patrick Koch's family clear his name.(Staff photo)|
Finn said it would be "charitable" to say the Church and the Dallas Diocese have been "deficient" in addressing sexual abuse by priests. But Finn said he worked closely with Koch while at the school, including when he was student body president, and he never felt like he was being groomed for abuse.
Finn said he got involved because Koch isn’t alive to address the allegations.
“Do I know he’s innocent? No,” said Finn. “Do I know he’s guilty? No. But I never saw a sign of predatory behavior.”
For Pedevilla, Finn’s efforts make it more important for him to speak out with his name and his face.
“That was the primary reason for coming even forward, originally under John Doe, was, I was not going to let him get his name cleared,” Pedevilla said.
Pedevilla said he wants “to expose what the practices are that led to this, and what the practices still are in place today that, despite everything they say publicly, are not going to exact any kind of change.”