HDS Woman Says Local Priest Abused Her
By Angelica Martinez
San Bernardino Sun [San Bernardino CA]
May 7, 2002
Early Tuesday morning, Sandra Graves said, she got a phone call from Fontana police officers investigating an alleged crime that changed her life 38 years ago.
Now 47, Graves is grappling with the memories of the Fontana pastor she trusted and who she says molested her for about a year.
She was 10 years old.
That was in 1964, when there weren't a lot of stories about Catholic priests molesting children, she said. It wasn't talked about.
But that doesn't mean it didn't happen, she said.
Graves says she was one of six girls who were molested by the Rev. Adalbert J. Kowalczyk.
"He stuck his hand down my panties and fondled me, if you want to get graphic,' she said.
Graves, a member of one of the founding families of Resurrection Church in Fontana, said the sexual assaults went on for about a year before a parent of one of the girls who knew about the alleged molestations prompted Kowalczyk's removal from the church.
"He just disappeared,' Graves said. "He was moved to a church in Chicago. He has since died, in 1972.'
The discussions of what happened left with him.
"I thought it was something I did wrong,' Graves said. "I thought, 'How could this person who talks to God be doing something wrong?' I hadn't told anybody. That's not to say the memory was not there.
"Back in 1964, our whole life revolved around the church. Nobody at the parish knew. It was never made public, but it was tough. It doesn't ever go away,'
The Roman Catholic Church's recent sexual molestation scandal brought to the surface thoughts Graves said she's tried to block from her childhood.
A Fontana police detective, following up Tuesday morning on a list of allegations given to authorities by San Bernardino Diocese officials in late April, discussed on the record with Graves what allegedly happened nearly four decades ago.
"I commend [the police] for doing that,' Graves said, "but it has been a very long time.'
Records of Kowalczyk are not available from the San Bernardino Diocese, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, diocese spokesman.
The crimes occurred before the diocese was created in San Bernardino.
At the time of the crimes, the San Diego Diocese supervised the parishes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Bernadeane Carr, San Diego Diocese spokeswoman, said no record of Kowalczyk could be found. She believes he might be linked to the diocese in Chicago. No one there could be reached.
Graves, born in St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino and raised in Fontana, lives in Oceanside and works with sexually abused children.
Eight years ago, she said, she filed a lawsuit against Kowalczyk and the church.
She lost the lawsuit because she had to file the complaint within a year of her 18th birthday, she said.
"I had no legal remedy, but filing the lawsuit, going through the appeals and hearing the judges say 'what happened to her was wrong' was worth every minute of it,' she said.
Today, Graves continues to follow the Catholic faith but doesn't go to church.
"I will be a Catholic until the day I die,' she said, "but do I practice it? No. I grieve for my church, but this should never happen to a child. It's just not right.'
Four Roman Catholic priests still serving in the Inland Empire are among the 20 priests involved in child-abuse allegations on the list that the San Bernardino Diocese gave to police.
One of the 22 allegations against the priests dates to 1957. The most recent was in 1995.
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