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  Man Alleges Abuse, Says Church Could Have Prevented It Lawyer Says Priest Denied Misconduct

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
July 10, 1997

The brief 1966 memo that went into the Rev. Patrick Lynch's personnel file said he'd been reported for "becoming sexually involved with a student while stationed at St. Pius X Church, Dallas, Texas. This should be kept confidential . . . "

"That was three years before I was born!" said Stephen Tomac, who alleges that the Roman Catholic priest went on to molest him for months in 1981.

Father Lynch had founded St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson by that time, and Mr. Tomac was a 12-year-old preparing for confirmation there. The lessons he learned that year, the young man said, destroyed his faith and haunt him to this day.

"It could have been prevented," Mr. Tomac, now 27 and living in Chicago, said this week. "That's the thing that makes me go, I'm very angry.' "

Father Lynch has denied any sexual misconduct, Dallas diocesan lawyer Randal Mathis says. The priest didn't return calls to residences in Ireland and England, where he retired in 1995 after telling St. Joseph parishioners that he was taking time off for health reasons.

His letter to the congregation said that a routine exam had turned up heart trouble. In fact, Mr. Mathis says, the visit to the doctor was prompted by a man coming forward with 30-year-old abuse allegations and the subsequent discovery of the memo.

Monsignor Glenn "Duffy" Gardner, vicar general of the Dallas Diocese, declined to comment on whether alleged abuse by Father Lynch could have been stopped long ago.

Interviewed during a break in the civil trial that pits 11 young men against the diocese and suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, he stressed that Catholic officials are offering counseling to anyone who's been abused by a priest.

"To help anybody right now - that's the important part," Monsignor Gardner said. "They are members of our community and they need help."

Mr. Tomac, an actor and writer, learned of Father Lynch's history this week when a close friend called and started reading from a Dallas Morning News article. It detailed how diocese officials allowed Father Lynch and at least one other man accused of sexual abuse to continue serving as priests, even after removing Mr. Kos from his parish in Ennis.

No civil or criminal charges are pending locally against Father Lynch, who Mr. Tomac says frequently contrived to be alone with him and shamed him into silence.

Until the other day, Mr. Tomac said, he had tried to convince himself that he was "the only person this happened to."

Now the 1992 Southern Methodist University graduate said he suspects that there are many more, perhaps from the early 1980s alone.

Talking with his mother, they realized that other families with young teenage boys suddenly stopped going to St. Joseph in that period, Mr. Tomac said.

Mr. Tomac said his family also left, after he told his older sister about prying questions the priest was asking him and she alerted their parents. At the time, he said, he couldn't bring himself to tell anyone the rest of the story.

His mother, Bonnie Mount , remembers being suspicious and yet not reporting her concerns - something she still feels some guilt about.

"It's always very noble to say you'll do it for the broader good," Ms. Mount said. But it's extremely daunting, she added, to imagine taking on the church when your traumatized child doesn't want to.

Diocese officials say they haven't heard from Mr. Tomac or anyone else of his generation. They maintain that their only evidence against Father Lynch is the 1966 memo and the allegations of the man who came forward a few years ago.

Sylvia Demarest, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs in the Kos case, said she knows of at least one other man who has contacted the diocese and alleged abuse by Father Lynch. He received an out-of-court settlement for counseling, she said.

Meanwhile, Father Lynch is free in his paid retirement to do what Mr. Kos cannot - bless the faithful as a man of God, take their confessions, forgive their sins.

"He could be celebrating a Mass," acknowledged Monsignor Gardner, who served under Father Lynch at St. Joseph in the early 1980s. He said he wasn't at the church often and doesn't remember seeing anything untoward.

Mr. Tomac dates his discomfort with Father Lynch back to the evening the priest showed up unexpectedly at his home "with tickets to see Camelot at Bishop Lynch High School. Just me and him."

On the drive there, he said, the priest began quizzing him about his masturbation practices and sexual fantasies, seeking "very graphic descriptions." The following weeks brought repeated phone calls along the same lines, "sometimes very late at night," and ultimately sexual contact at the priest's home near the church, Mr. Tomac said.

Later, he said, the abuse came into his own home - sometimes when his parents were at work, sometimes when the priest visited the family after Sunday Mass.

"We were in my bedroom one time changing after being in the pool," Mr. Tomac said. "We went into my closet and did the deed," with his mother and grandmother in the next room preparing dinner, he said.

Mr. Tomac said he knew even in those days, as a seventh-grader, that something wasn't right. Yet priests "are a guiding force you trust on some level, even if you feel, Ooh, this is wrong.' "

He said he endured the abuse by telling himself, "I'm just going to lie here. I would just freeze up." And for several years afterward, "I sexually just shut off."

Mr. Tomac said he was long paralyzed by the fear of what might happen if he complained - that "it would've been this thing of you wanted it' " and that "the world would look at me as a very bad person."

Father Lynch, he said, pressed him repeatedly to keep quiet and "played up the shame."

His devout parents also fell victim to the priest's authority and attention, Mr. Tomac said. Ms. Mount, a eucharistic minister at the time, concurs.

"He used to tell us how much Stephen reminded him of himself as a boy, and how smart he was," she said. "You just eat that up as a parent."

With her trust betrayed, she said, she has come to think of the priesthood as a magnet for pedophiles. "I think it attracts them because of the way they have cover," she said. "They are above reproach, supposedly."

Mr. Tomac said he began coming to grips with the past during college by seeing a therapist and writing a play. Sins of the Saints , which features a character named Father Patrick, was performed in a 1991 student workshop at SMU and has since been produced at a small Chicago theater.

Today, said Mr. Tomac, "I consider myself a jaded ex-Catholic," wary not of God but of organized religion generally and Christianity specifically.

He said he'll consider the church's offer of counseling, though "I don't know if there's anything the church can do to make amends.

I don't know if I can ever get my faith back, in the Catholic sense of the word."

One thing church leaders can do, he said, is pay attention when people speak up - as someone did about Father Lynch in 1966, and as many witnesses in the Kos trial have testified they did for years.

"I just don't want it to happen again," Mr. Tomac said.

 
 

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