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  4 Suits Accuse Priest of Sexual Abuse

By Margaret Zack
Star Tribune
February 8, 1995

Four lawsuits alleging sex abuse by the priest known as the Polka Padre were filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court.

The Rev. Robert Kapoun, a priest since 1964, is serving at the Church of St. Scholastica near New Prague.

The suits were brought by men, now ages 27 to 40, who said they were abused as adolescents after they got to know Kapoun through their parishes.

Kapoun denies the allegations in three of the suits, and his recollection of events 18 years ago in the fourth one differ, Joan Bernet, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Tuesday.

One suit alleges abuse from 1966 through 1969 while Kapoun was a priest at St. Kevin's Catholic Church in Richfield.

It says that J.D., as the plaintiff is known, came to know and respect Kapoun through his work as an altar boy and student at St. Kevin's elementary school.

The suit by a plaintiff known as T.M. alleges that he was molested by Kapoun in 1973 while he was serving St. Raphael's Parish in Crystal. T.M.'s father died in January 1973 and Kapoun befriended him and became a father figure, the suit said.

The suit by S.M. alleged that he was abused in 1975 by Kapoun, who was employed by the Home of the Good Shepherd in St. Paul. The alleged abuse occurred in his home at the school for wayward girls.

S.M. was an altar boy at St. Raphael Parish and also attended its parochial school.

The abuse allegations brought by D.S. are the most recent, from 1980 or 1981 while Kapoun was at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in New Prague.

The suits by D.S. and S.M. allege that a parishioner took reports of the abuse at St. Raphael's in 1973. The suits say a report was given to Archbishop John Roach, who said, "Well, it might be true, and then again maybe it isn't." Nothing was done, they said.

In 1989, Kapoun was the target of a suit alleging sexual abuse while he was at St. Raphael's Church in 1973. The suit, by a man who was 12 at the time of the alleged abuse, was settled in 1990 for an undisclosed amount of money.

Kapoun has been professionally evaluated twice, Bernet said, and it was determined that he did not need to be removed as a priest. She said parish leaders were aware of the allegations and asked Kapoun to remain.

But if new information comes to light about his ability to function properly, the decision will be reexamined, she said.

Kapoun is known as the Polka Padre for leading church masses to polka music. He and his band are a popular feature at Catholic churches around the state. Often he performs dance music outside the church after services.

Jeffrey R. Anderson, the attorney who filed the suits, said Tuesday that the cases show the same pattern of conduct: Kapoun became close to a family, gained its trust, attached himself to adolescent boys and then abused them.

The four only recently became aware of the abuse, Anderson said.

"They suffered in silence. They blamed themselves or thought it [the abuse] was right," he said.

 
 

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