28 Men Allege Abuse by Monk
1965 to 1975: Western Alaska Men Sue Fairbanks Catholic Diocese, Jesuits
By Richard Mauer
Anchorage Daily News
November 12, 2004
Twenty-eight Alaska men say that when they were children, a religious brother who served several Western Alaska villages bought sexual favors from them with candy, better grades, sacramental wine and coins from collection plates.
The men, now mostly in their 40s, say in a lawsuit filed in Bethel that the former Trappist monk, Joseph Lundowski, abused their trust as deacon and religious instructor and engaged them in sexual misconduct, including oral sex. One man said he was also raped.
The men's identities are not disclosed in the lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages from the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese and the Jesuit province in Oregon, which has a historical affiliation with the Fairbanks diocese. At the time of the alleged abuse, from 1965 to 1975, the victims ranged in age from 6 to 24, with most of them in their adolescence.
The lawsuit says that Lundowski was forced from Alaska by church authorities in 1975. He is believed to have died. He was born in 1918.
A spokeswoman for the Fairbanks diocese said it had not received a copy of the suit and couldn't comment on the allegations.
"From the best I can figure, he left in the mid-'70s," said Ronnie Rosenberg, the director of human resources. "There are not many people here now who even remember him. As for the victims, all them are 'James Doe,' and we don't know who they are now. We do pray for healing for anyone who may have been injured."
In a prepared statement, the Jesuits denied any direct connection to Lundowski.
"The Society of Jesus learned this morning about the filing of litigation alleging multiple instances of sexual misconduct several years ago by Mr. Joseph Lundowski. As we have been committed to healing in the Church, we are saddened by these new allegations, and keep all who have suffered in our prayers. However, the Society wishes to clarify that Mr. Joseph Lundowski was at no time a member of the Society of Jesus nor in any way subject to the authority of any Jesuit superior or Provincial," it said.
According to the lawsuit, Lundowski was kicked out of his monastery "because of his inability to withstand the rigors of monastic life." The lawsuit asserted that the language was code for "his improper and illegal sexual involvement with young boys."
Lundowski was recruited to Alaska by The Rev. George Endal for the Holy Rosary Mission School in Dillingham around 1949. Endal put Lundowski in charge of the boys' dormitory.
In 1963, when Endal went to the Western Alaska village of Nulato, Lundowski followed, the lawsuit said. It was there that Lundowski was "involved in a scandal with a person 'who is not a woman,' " the lawsuit said, quoting from a 1965 letter written to another priest in Western Alaska by his superior. The letter, discovered by the plaintiffs' attorney, Ken Roosa of Anchorage, in another abuse case, suggested that Lundowski's behavior was already established and known, though nothing was done about it other than complaining.
"Rather," the lawsuit continued, "he was transferred to Hooper Bay with Father Endal in 1965, where he continued to molest and sexually assault boys and young men."
Lundowski was deacon and religious instructor over the next 10 years at parishes in Hooper Bay, Stebbins and St. Michael. He also left a trail of abuse, according to the suit. Six of the victims were from Little Flower of Jesus parish at Hooper Bay; 11 attended St. Michael's parish at St. Michael; and 11 were from St. Bernard's parish in Stebbins.
His "sexual predation accelerated" when he was transferred to St. Michael and Stebbins in 1968, the lawsuit said. "He continued to serve as a deacon and catechist, often molesting boys after Mass or catechism."
The suit charged he engaged in oral copulation with each of the victims, "and forced many to submit to anal sodomy and required them to masturbate him." The boys were rewarded with candy, money stolen from collection plates, cooked and baked foods, beer, sacramental wine "and better grades on their catechism assignments."
He also warned them against telling. He said "no one would believe them because he worked for God," the suit said.
His abuse finally came to an end when a resident of St. Michael, Martha Abochook, caught him in the act with the 24-year-old, the suit said. Abochook, who is now dead, "raised a fuss" that resulted in the Fairbanks diocese removing Lundowski from Alaska.
Each of the men still lives in Western Alaska. Until other lawsuits against priests in the area became known, the men didn't understand their depression, anxiety, self-blame, shame and guilt were caused by Lundowski, the suit said. "They didn't know they had the right to sue the diocese until they heard of the others."
Church officials should have stopped the abuse and reported Lundowski's felonies to authorities, but failed, the lawsuit said.
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