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  Archdiocese Removes 'Polka Padre' after Molested Victim Goes Public
Man Makes Request at Press Conference: 'Please Deal with It'

By Chip Johnson
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
February 9, 1996

Fighting back tears, Dale Scheffler, who says he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest 14 years ago, stood before reporters and television cameras Thursday and made a plea to Archbishop Harry Flynn to remove the priest from his parish.

Two hours later, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a statement that the Rev. Robert Kapoun, widely known as the "Polka Padre," had been removed from his assignment at three parishes near Heidelberg, southwest of the Twin Cities.

In a short but emotional statement, Scheffler, now 28, implored the church to face the problem of priests who molest boys.

"When are you going to come to grips - deal with it, please deal with it," Scheffler said. "How can you go on living and knowing that he did this?"

Scheffler said he spoke out because "my main objective is to get him out," he said, referring to Kapoun.

Scheffler, with his wife at his side, spoke at the Hennepin County Government Center, where hearings continue to determine whether punitive damages should be awarded in the case.

The assault on Scheffler occurred in a Cold Spring, Minn., cabin in June 1981 when Kapoun, who was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in St. Patrick, took Scheffler and another boy on a camping trip.

All three people slept on the floor, and one evening Kapoun attempted to engage in sex with the youth, said Jeffery Anderson, Scheffler's attorney.

Anderson said Kapoun typically "gained the trust of parishioners and their youth" before taking the male youths on recreational outings.

Anderson accused Kapoun of molesting boys at each of the six parishes he was assigned to since he left St. Patrick's in 1981.

On Wednesday, a Hennepin County civil jury awarded Scheffler $550,000 in damages after agreeing that Kapoun sexually molested him. The jury also found the archdiocese negligent in its supervision and retention of Kapoun and held the institution responsible, said Anderson.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Harry Flynn issued a statement Thursday saying the archdiocese believed Kapoun's denials about the assault on Scheffler because he had admitted in 1987 to molesting other boys.

Kapoun received professional and spiritual counseling before he was reassigned to a parish, said Joan Bernete, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Included in the statement was a renewed request from the archdiocese asking anyone with information about "questionable behavior" of a priest to come forward.

Former Archbishop John Roach is expected to testify in the punitive damage award phase of the trial Monday, Anderson said.Fighting back tears, Dale Scheffler, who says he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest 14 years ago, stood before reporters and television cameras Thursday and made a plea to Archbishop Harry Flynn to remove the priest from his parish.

Two hours later, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a statement that the Rev. Robert Kapoun, widely known as the "Polka Padre," had been removed from his assignment at three parishes near Heidelberg, southwest of the Twin Cities.

In a short but emotional statement, Scheffler, now 28, implored the church to face the problem of priests who molest boys.

"When are you going to come to grips - deal with it, please deal with it," Scheffler said. "How can you go on living and knowing that he did this?"

Scheffler said he spoke out because "my main objective is to get him out," he said, referring to Kapoun.

Scheffler, with his wife at his side, spoke at the Hennepin County Government Center, where hearings continue to determine whether punitive damages should be awarded in the case.

The assault on Scheffler occurred in a Cold Spring, Minn., cabin in June 1981 when Kapoun, who was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in St. Patrick, took Scheffler and another boy on a camping trip.

All three people slept on the floor, and one evening Kapoun attempted to engage in sex with the youth, said Jeffery Anderson, Scheffler's attorney.

Anderson said Kapoun typically "gained the trust of parishioners and their youth" before taking the male youths on recreational outings.

Anderson accused Kapoun of molesting boys at each of the six parishes he was assigned to since he left St. Patrick's in 1981.

On Wednesday, a Hennepin County civil jury awarded Scheffler $550,000 in damages after agreeing that Kapoun sexually molested him. The jury also found the archdiocese negligent in its supervision and retention of Kapoun and held the institution responsible, said Anderson.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Harry Flynn issued a statement Thursday saying the archdiocese believed Kapoun's denials about the assault on Scheffler because he had admitted in 1987 to molesting other boys.

Kapoun received professional and spiritual counseling before he was reassigned to a parish, said Joan Bernete, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Included in the statement was a renewed request from the archdiocese asking anyone with information about "questionable behavior" of a priest to come forward.

Former Archbishop John Roach is expected to testify in the punitive damage award phase of the trial Monday, Anderson said.

 
 

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