Inquiry on Priest under Way
Diocese: Probe Began before Molestation Suit
By Daniel Cattau and Judith Lynn Howard
Dallas Morning News
May 20, 1993
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas had begun investigating a priest accused of sexually abusing minors before a lawsuit was filed Tuesday, an attorney for the diocese said Wednesday.
"It was not the lawsuit that prompted the investigation,' said Randal Mathis, a Dallas lawyer who is also serving as the diocesan spokesman. He said the investigation started several months ago and has no target date for completion.
Mr. Mathis added that the lawsuit was the first he knew of in the diocese that involves allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy.
Both the diocese and the Rev. Rudolph Kos, who is at a treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M., were named in the suit, filed by Dallas lawyer Windle Turley. Mr. Turley is seeking unspecified damages for two unidentified men who say they were abused as boys.
The suit charges that Father Kos, who was born in 1945 and was a priest at three Dallas-area parishes, gave the boys alcohol and prescription drugs before their sexual encounters.
The suit, filed in state District Court in Dallas, also alleges that parishioners at St. John's Catholic Church in Ennis were "fraudulently' told by the diocese in September that Father Kos was resigning "to seek the help of God.'
The suit, which accuses the diocese of negligence, added: "The diocese officials had in fact sent the Rev. Kos to New Mexico for counseling. Church officials failed to inform law enforcement authorities that Rev. Kos had sexually abused a minor.'
That allegation -- which couldn't be confirmed Wednesday with Dallas County authorities -- goes against guidelines adopted in November by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The guidelines urge each diocese to respond promptly to allegations of sexual abuse and to relieve a priest of his duties if there is sufficient evidence.
Also, among other things, dioceses are urged to "comply with the obligations of civil law as regards to the reporting of the incident and cooperating with the investigation.'
Mr. Mathis said the diocese investigated the case promptly and relieved the priest of his duties. Asked whether the case was reported to authorities, he said, "I don't know.'
Mr. Mathis maintained that the Roman Catholic diocese "acted in a responsible manner in its handling of the case.'
The lawsuit alleges that Father Kos sexually abused the two plaintiffs at St. John's in Ennis and at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Irving, where he worked from 1985 to 1988.
Father Kos was friendly and popular with the children at St. Luke's elementary school, said a parent who declined to give her name.
Students would gather at his office to speak with him, she said.
Her son, now 16, was once an altar boy during the period when Father Kos was associate pastor.
"Father Kos had all the neat stuff,' like Nintendo games he permitted the students to use, the teen said. "He was with us. He was like one of the guys.'
The parent said that Father Kos had the charisma of the "Pied Piper, and they were really upset when he was going to leave.'
Many eighth-graders were drawn to the priest, the youth said, adding that he had never been bothered by Father Kos.
On campus, staff members said they did not know which families made the allegations against Father Kos. The Rev. Gus Melito, pastor at St. Luke's, said he will bring up the case during Mass on Thursday.
Parish secretary Doris Dickey said she was still reeling from hearing the allegations against Father Kos. As she worked with him, he proved skilled in duties such as pulling off the dedication plans for St. Luke's new sanctuary and computerizing the parish's operations.
"Priests have always been held in high esteem, and people just don't feel that they would do things like this,' she said.
"All denominations are having some kind of problem,' said Mrs. Dickey, who has worked at St. Luke's more than 13 years. The Catholic Church is more vulnerable to criticism "because the priest lives in an almost sterile setting,' she said.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann and other diocesan officials will not comment on the lawsuit's allegations, spokeswoman Patricia Martin said in a prepared statement.
"These allegations are extremely upsetting and of grave concern to the diocese,' she said. "We are committed to a complete and full investigation of the claims so that the full truth of this matter can be revealed.'
The allegations against Father Kos are not unique, a former diocese staffer said.
"This is not an isolated case. There are at least three or four others that I've heard about,' said Joe Michael Feist, former editor of the Texas Catholic.
Mr. Feist would not provide details. He resigned this year under pressure from the bishop on unrelated matters.
Mr. Mathis said he was not aware of any allegations of sexual abuse by other members of the clergy in the diocese.
Mr. Feist faulted the diocese for its handling of the case.
"I would like to see the diocese be concerned about victims instead of perpetrators and the diocese's own image -- and be honest and open about it,' he said.
Mr. Turley, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the church "thus far has been unwilling to assist these victims.'
Asked whether help was provided to the alleged victims, as suggested by the bishops' guidelines, Mr. Mathis, the diocesan attorney, refused to comment.
Monsignor Robert C. Rehkemper, pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in North Dallas and former vicar general of the diocese, also refused to comment about the case.
In a 1988 news story, he said that in the event of a sexual abuse case involving a priest, the diocese would seek legal and medical help for the victim, the victim's family and the priest.
"We wouldn't publish it,' he said then. "But we would take every precaution that it wouldn't happen again. We recognize that the man would not be sent to another parish if there was any danger that it would occur again.'
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