Ex-N’West Iowa priest accused of sex abuse
By Mark Mahoney
October 19, 2019
A Catholic priest with N’West Iowa ties who died in May has been accused of sexual abuse.
In a 13-page civil complaint filed on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Woodbury County District Court in Sioux City against the Diocese of Sioux City, 60-year-old Samuel Heinrichs accused the Rev. Dale Koster of physically and sexually abusing him when he was about 10 years old.
According to the lawsuit, Koster’s alleged sexual abuse of Heinrichs started in 1968 and continued through at least 1970, and it happened inside the school and rectory office of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church northwest of Carroll.
Koster retired from active ministry in 1996 and died on May 31 at the age of 94, according to his obituary. During his career, his pastor assignments included Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Alvord and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Doon.
The Diocese of Sioux City on Feb. 25 released the names of 28 Catholic priests “who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse” of more than 100 children, which dated back to the 1940s. Koster’s name was not on that list.
Susan O’Brien, the director of communications and development for the Diocese of Sioux City, said she could not comment on Heinrichs’ lawsuit.
“What I can tell you is that the Diocese of Sioux City hopes all victims of clergy sexual abuse continue to come forward, contact authorities and our victim assistance coordinator to file a report,” she said.
“We want victims of clergy sexual abuse to know we are committed to moving forward with openness and accountability,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, Heinrichs, who lives in California, “is still recovering from memories of the subject abuse.”
He has requested a jury trial and is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the diocese.
Koster was Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s pastor and the head of Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s school when Heinrichs was a student there.
His alleged sexual abuse of Heinrichs happened throughout Heinrichs’ fourth- and fifth-grade school years, and occurred again when he was an eighth-grader.
According to the lawsuit, the effects of Koster’s alleged sexual abuse of Heinrichs were “virtually instantaneous.”
“Not only was there the fact of the direct physical and sexual abuse, but plaintiff also developed gripping and at times incapacitating anxiety,” according to the lawsuit. “One physical manifestation of that anxiety was the fact that plaintiff developed an ulcer as a fifth-grade student.”
According to the lawsuit, Koster told Heinrichs he was a “bad boy” and no one would believe him if Heinrichs told anyone about Koster’s alleged sexual abuse.
Heinrichs attempted to develop a mechanism and a plan to avoid Koster and further abuse, but this only made Koster angry with Heinrichs.
To punish Heinrichs, Koster allegedly put together a boxing match between Heinrichs and the biggest boy in a physical education class at school.
According to the lawsuit, the intended mismatch left Heinrichs “physically and emotionally beaten” and he “took that beating to be a warning as to the consequences of any further perceived insolence against the authority of” Koster.
“Koster used his status and substantial power as a priest to groom plaintiff for sexual abuse, to convince plaintiff that the abuse was normal, to convince him that reporting his abuse would be futile and to sexually abuse plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit.
Heinrichs accused Koster of once telling him “that sexual activity between an adult man and a child was ‘normal’ and ‘what God wants,’” according to the lawsuit.
In addition, according to the lawsuit, the Diocese of Sioux City “knew or should have known of Koster’s sexual abuses and/or other sexual misconduct” and “did nothing to stop the abuse or to warn vulnerable parishioners.”
Because of Koster’s alleged sexual abuse, Heinrichs continues to suffer serious emotional distress as well as suffers from embarrassment, shame, humiliation, guilt, loss of self-esteem and depression.
According to the lawsuit, Heinrichs lost his job and “ability to be gainfully employed.” In addition, he is incurring expenses for needed psychological treatment, therapy and counseling.