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  Officials Say Diocese Erred in Not Reporting Abuse Fears
They Say Failure to Inform Officials Possibly Illegal

By Judith Lynn Howard and Daniel Cattau
Dallas Morning News
May 21, 1993

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas may have violated state law by not alerting authorities to allegations that one of its priests sexually abused minors, legal officials say.

Police in Ennis, Irving and Dallas -- the three cities where the Rev. Rudolph Kos worked from 1981 until last fall -- said Thursday that they had no record of being contacted by the diocese.

"Failure to report child abuse is a crime,' said Lt. Bill Walsh of the Dallas Police Department's youth and family crimes bureau.

The offense is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail, a $ 1,000 fine or both.

Texas law requires that anyone who suspects child abuse must report it to "either the police or Child Protective Services. And it doesn't distinguish between certain professions,' Lt. Walsh said. "It says every person who has a suspicion.'

Randal Mathis, a Dallas lawyer representing the diocese, has said that the diocese has been investigating allegations against Father Kos for several months. Mr. Mathis said he did not know whether legal authorities had been notified about the allegations.

Given that in-house investigation, "the diocese definitely should have called the police,' said Elaine Thieroff, support director for Child Protective Services.

Her agency, an arm of state government, investigates only when the

suspected offender is a member of the victim's family, she said.

"We never had anybody who contacted us about anything,' Ennis Police Chief Dale Holt said, echoing comments made by Irving authorities. "Nobody requested any type of investigation from us.

"We have absolutely no knowledge of anything in Ennis, Texas, that went on. If someone had notified us of any offenses against anyone, we would have certainly investigated.'

Mr. Mathis said he believes the diocese has acted properly in the matter.

"I'm continuing to look into it. I continue to feel that the diocese has done what they should have appropriately done in a timely fashion in response to these allegations.

"And as further information comes to light, as the need arises, then I would expect them to take any further action that may be neccessary or required,' he said.

Mr. Mathis said he is not representing Father Kos, who has not been located for comment.

Father Kos and the diocese are named in a lawsuit in which two unidentified men allege they were sexually abused as boys. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed Tuesday in state District Court in Dallas County.

The lawsuit alleges that Father Kos abused the two plaintiffs at St. John's Catholic Church in Ennis and at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Irving. The plaintiffs also allege that Father Kos gave the boys alcohol and prescription drugs before their sexual encounters.

Mr. Mathis said the diocese has filed a legal denial of the accusations in the lawsuit and has requested a jury trial.

According to the lawsuit, Father Kos was assigned to St. John's from 1988 to 1992 and at St. Luke's from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he was assigned to All Saints Catholic Church in Far North Dallas.

The plaintiffs allege that the diocese "negligently hired and/or continued the employment of Reverend Kos in a position of trust, confidence and authority as a parish priest in direct contact with youths when it knew or should have known of his dangerous propensities.'

Windle Turley, attorney for the two plaintiffs, said Thursday that "many families have contacted us' with concerns about Father Kos since the lawsuit was filed.

He said people had made abuse allegations about the priest as early as the late 1980s.

"There is written documentation out there that the church knew of this long prior to 1992,' he said, declining to provide specifics.

Mr. Turley accused the diocese of failing to help the alleged victims, as recommended by national Catholic guidelines.

"Even after the church had confirmation that Father Kos had engaged in sexual misconduct with one of the victims, it offered no assistance for counseling,' he said. "All it did was protect the interests of the church.'

One reason for the lawsuit, he said, was to "see that the church will provide services' for abuse victims.

Mr. Mathis has refused to comment on whether the church has helped the alleged victims.

Nationally, clergy sexual-abuse cases are proliferating, according to a representative of one of more than a dozen networks of abuse survivors.

Frank Fitzpatrick of Cranston, R.I., said that more than 400 people have contacted him since he started to collect names of clergy abuse victims in May 1992.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, 43, says he was sexually abused by James Porter, a former priest who has been convicted of child molestation in Minnesota.

Mr. Porter, who left the priesthood in 1974, still faces trial in Massachusetts on more than 40 counts of child abuse.

One diocese he formerly worked for, in Fall River, Mass., reached an undisclosed settlement in December with 68 men and women who say that Mr. Porter abused them.

When Mr. Fitzpatrick went to the Fall River diocese four years ago with his allegations against Mr. Porter, he said he was told by an administrator "to leave it in the hands of the Lord.'

He said there is a common thread to the way most abuse cases are handled by the Roman Catholic Church.

"They close ranks to protect themselves. They try to hide things and stick their heads in the sand, and hope it goes away,' Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

But Lt. Walsh of Dallas said people should report possible child abuse immediately because suspects can flee, destroy evidence or "pressure the child to recant. All of those are impediments to our investigation. . . . They could be putting the child at further risk by not promptly reporting their suspicions to us.'

He said that organizations confronting allegations of abuse against their employees or volunteers may hesitate before coming forward, not understanding that it's better for authorities to get involved.

 
 

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