Dallas Resources – July 22–31, 1997
By Brooks Egerton
After final arguments ended in the Dallas Catholic Diocese's sex-abuse case Monday, Judge Anne Ashby announced that she had something to say, too.
She told all parties in the case to stay put for a little talk after jurors left, then slipped off her robe, took a seat in the jury box and began pouring her heart out about what she had heard in the nearly three-month civil trial.
"If anything like this can ever be positive, then let there be healing and let there be hope," state District Judge Ashby said, addressing both the plaintiffs a few feet in front of her and the church leaders across the room.
She said she'd felt throughout testimony that "everybody in this courtroom has been grieving. . . . You've been horrified. You've been hurt. You've been miserable.
"I've been so close to your tragedy it just breaks my heart."
The young men who say the Rev. Rudolph "Rudy" Kos molested them as children seemed to hang on every word of the judge's highly unusual speech. They leaned forward on the front-row bench they've occupied throughout the trial, even as she, too, leaned forward and frequently focused her gaze on them.
Monday marked the closing arguments in the civil trial of Mr. Kos and the Dallas Diocese. Eleven plaintiffs are seeking $146.5 million in their lawsuit.
When Judge Ashby finished after a few minutes, she offered to take questions from the packed room. Only one woman, who didn't identify herself, spoke; she praised the judge's sensitive handling of the case, prompting an outburst of applause.
Attorneys on both sides agreed that they'd never seen a judge take such action before a verdict had been reached.
Randal Mathis, who has defended the diocese against allegations that it covered up a decade of abuse, flushed red when asked about the speech and said agitatedly: "It would not be appropriate for me to comment."
Windle Turley, who represents a majority of the plaintiffs, called the judge's remarks "so sincere. . . . I don't think it's improper, but it is unusual."
Judge Ashby told the lone news reporter in the courtroom that she didn't want to elaborate on her comments, which the court stenographer apparently did not record.
She also asked that no story be written about what she'd said.
Otherwise, she said, "I may never do it again."
Linda Eads, a law professor at Southern Methodist University and an expert on judicial ethics, said she didn't think the judge had violated any of the codes that govern jurisprudence.
Still, she said, "it will cause people to wonder about her objectivity. . . . What's the benefit of doing it? Frankly, I don't see any.
"She may have had the need to cleanse her own soul."
Ms. Eads described Judge Ashby as an excellent judge, so her speech "is even more shocking in that sense. She's usually so measured, so controlled."
Before sending jurors out of the courtroom for the night, Judge Ashby instructed them to ignore news accounts of the case and not to discuss it outside the jury room. The panel, which is not sequestered, is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday morning.
In her speech, the judge said she had no idea what conclusions the jury would reach, and she did not endorse any type of finding.
Mr. Kos has already been found liable because he didn't present a defense.
Judge Ashby also hailed the lawyers on both sides as the finest she'd ever seen practice.
She talked freely about religion, describing herself as a Presbyterian with Episcopal relatives. Of her role in the case, she said, "If there ever was a situation where I was working for the Lord, it was this." The judge exhorted the plaintiffs to know their own worth and not to surrender their faith.
"Each and every one of you is a valuable member of this community," she said. "I know that your church and your God is very, very important to you. Don't give it up. " Judge Ashby paid homage to one young man who couldn't attend the trial - a man whose parents are pressing his case because he committed suicide, allegedly as a result of molestation by Mr. Kos.
"I wish I could wave my magic wand and bring that wonderful young man back here," she said. "But I can't." Next, she tried to cheer the Roman Catholic leaders who have sat through the trial's many painful revelations.
"The church has many wonderful things ahead of it," Judge Ashby said.
Then, returning her attention to the young men in the front row, she said: "You guys have some work to do. You've got to find a therapist you like.
"You're never going to be the same again," she said. But "you're going to get through this."
By Ed Housewright
Jurors in the sexual-abuse civil trial of former Catholic priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos and the Dallas Diocese ended their first day of deliberations Tuesday without reaching a verdict.
After hearing 11 weeks of testimony, jurors are considering a 43-page charge with 33 questions, most of which have multiple parts.
Several of the questions ask whether the diocese was negligent in its supervision of Mr. Kos, who is accused of sexually abusing boys at three churches from 1981 to 1992.
The questions also ask whether the diocese made misrepresentations about Mr. Kos, inflicted "emotional distress" on the plaintiffs, committed fraud, concealed information, was "part of a conspiracy" and "acted with malice in employing or retaining" Mr. Kos.
Attorneys for the 11 plaintiffs, who are seeking $146.5 million, said they thought the jury could return a verdict Wednesday, although they wouldn't be surprised if the process took longer.
The detailed charge is "typical" for a "fairly complex case," said Windle Turley, who represents eight of the plaintiffs.
"I think we have an extremely conscientious and attentive jury," Mr. Turley said. "It seems to understand the significance of its task and be ready to take on that burden. " Randal Mathis, who represents the diocese, would not comment on the charge or the jury's deliberations.
Mr. Turley said he met with his plaintiffs and some of their family members to thank them for the courage they had shown.
"I told them we might not win the case," he said. "I feel good in that we got the evidence before the jury that we wanted to. Whether that's enough to persuade the jury, we'll have to see.
"You never, never, never know what a jury is going to do."
State District Judge Anne Ashby already has found Mr. Kos liable for the sexual abuse because he has not responded to the lawsuits, first filed in 1993.
The 10-woman, two-man jury now will decide what liability, if any, rests with the diocese. The church contends that it should not be held accountable for Mr. Kos' conduct, in part because he was removed as soon as the first youth complained of sexual abuse in 1992.
The jury also will decide how much money, if any, the plaintiffs are entitled to for "actual damages." These include past and future medical care, lost earning capacity and "mental anguish.”
In their closing arguments Monday, Mr. Turley and the other plaintiffs' attorney, Sylvia Demarest, suggested that jurors award at least $1 million for each plaintiff for past mental anguish and at least $1.5 million each for future mental anguish.
The lawyers also said the plaintiffs are entitled to up to $582,000 in medical expenses and up to $3.4 million in lost earnings.
The jury also will decide whether Mr. Kos was the "proximate cause" of the suicide of a young man in 1992 whom he allegedly sexually abused. It will determine what money, if any, Jay Lemberger's parents, Pat and Nancy Lemberger of Nacogdoches, Texas, are due for "loss of companionship and society" and mental anguish.
If jurors find that the diocese demonstrated not only negligence but "gross negligence" with regard to the plaintiffs, they can award punitive damages as well as actual damages.
On Tuesday, Mr. Turley and Ms. Demarest took the deposition of Mike Weis, the chief financial officer for the diocese, at the courthouse. Neither they nor Mr. Mathis would comment about what was said.
Also Tuesday, Judge Ashby told several reporters gathered in her office that she would have no comment about her remarks to the plaintiffs and church officials Monday after the jury had left.
In her remarks, published in The Dallas Morning News, she said she thought "everybody in this courtroom has been grieving" throughout the trial and that "if anything like this can ever be positive, then let there be healing and let there be hope. "
By Brooks Egerton and Ed Housewright
The refuse of Rudolph "Rudy" Kos' priestly life lies in a Dallas-area business' sweltering attic, whose anguished owner is barred by court order from destroying it.
In 1992, the man agreed to store dozens of boxes when Mr. Kos suddenly left town. Church leaders said at the time that the priest was merely being treated for stress.
Not until Mr. Kos and the Dallas Catholic Diocese were sued in 1993 did the business owner learn that this man of God - the man he had trusted with his two sons - had been sent out of state for treatment of pedophilia.
And not until this year did one of his sons say he had been molested. That young man finally summoned his courage to speak shortly before the trial started, and too late to join it.
"I've never looked at the stuff," said the businessman, who spoke and allowed inspection of the belongings on the condition that his name not be used.
He said he'd like nothing more than to throw it all away, but the judge hearing the sexual-abuse case has ordered the property preserved as evidence.
Jurors in the nearly 3-month-old civil trial resume deliberations Thursday morning, having already deliberated for two days. Eleven plaintiffs are seeking $146.5 million in damages, alleging that the diocese covered up more than a decade of abuse.
Mr. Kos has already been found liable in the civil case because he didn't present a defense.
The attic's dusty containers, filled with everything from books and photos to old sermons and religious texts, offer mute testimony to passions that scarred many boys' lives. Nothing in the material provides direct evidence of abuse, but much of it reveals a man whose overriding focus was on children.
In one file is Mr. Kos' first liturgy, delivered in 1981 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Duncanville. The subject was children and love: "When I was a little boy, I fell in love with a nun who was my first-grade Sunday school teacher, but I also was in love with my bicycle and my dog. So, what do little children know of love? . . .
"When I was a young man, I really thought that I knew what love was. I thought that love meant that I possessed . . . those I loved. It took awhile to realize that I was hurting myself as well as others, and that I knew more of love in its pureness as a child than I did as a young man."
He told worshipers in the liturgy that, as a priest, he hoped to provide an example of love to them - "the example of pure, Christlike love that I learned from a child."
In another box are copies of the tribute card passed out years later when Mr. Kos said Mass for a suicide victim - a young man whose parents joined the suit, alleging that the now-suspended priest's abuse drove their son to kill himself.
On the back of the card is the poem I Prayed For You , credited to William Bredesen. It reads, in part: I took some time And prayed for you It was the best That I could do.
Among Mr. Kos' books are several on the subject of sexual addiction, including Don't Call It Love and Out of the Shadows.
There are Catholic yearbooks in abundance, some from schools that Mr. Kos was not serving at the time; there are Bibles and computer manuals and a Nintendo guide; there is a Code of Canon Law , still cased in plastic.
Also found unopened and sealed: a Catholic trivia game called Limbo.
Mr. Kos' photo collection includes pictures of most of the plaintiffs, said Sylvia Demarest, an attorney for some of the young men.
Some of his photographs are no longer in the stash of evidence.
While being treated at a Catholic center in New Mexico, before the scandal's magnitude was known, Mr. Kos "made a special trip to come back to take two photo albums," Ms. Demarest said.
She has never learned what the two albums show: Mr. Kos has refused to answer questions from lawyers on both sides of the case.
Among the other mysteries in the boxes is a red, spiral-bound notebook filled with what appear to be the writings of a teenage boy. The volume, labeled Thought of a Suicidal Seduction on its inside cover, contains desperate unsent love letters to girls and poems that extol self-destruction.
Nothing in the notebook refers directly to abuse or Mr. Kos, however. And the name the writer used is not one that anyone in the case recognizes, Ms. Demarest said.
Examples of the trust Mr. Kos inspired in some show up occasionally.
A parishioner at St. John Nepomucene in Ennis, Mr. Kos' last stop as a pastor, wrote him in 1990: "I would like to commend you on your love for children. After church I noticed some of the children gathered and you were hugging them."
The businessman who is storing all these documents once counted himself among the trusting, too.
Called to testify as a defense witness earlier this month, he said that he and his family became good friends with Mr. Kos after the priest became pastor of St. Luke's Catholic Church in Irving.
Mr. Kos, he said, frequently visited his business with boys from the church and stayed at his house when he was out of town.
The man testified that he never saw Mr. Kos act inappropriately and encouraged his friendship with his son.
"It appeared to me that he was a fatherly influence," the man said. "Rudy came off as being very masculine, maybe a little bit macho. I looked at it as a faith-enriching experience for the young boys to spend time with a young, physically fit, active priest. " After Mr. Kos was transferred to Ennis in 1988, the man said, he still saw him occasionally. The priest visited his home twice on leaves from his pedophilia treatment, he testified.
His son has since told him, he said, that Mr. Kos sexually abused him on one of those visits.
By Ed Housewright and Brooks Egerton
Jurors awarded 11 plaintiffs in a sexual-abuse civil case $ 119.6 million Thursday after unanimously finding that the Dallas Catholic Diocese committed "gross negligence" and concealed information in its handling of former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.
The verdict, which includes $ 18 million in punitive damages against the diocese, is the largest judgment ever in a clergy sexual molestation case in the country.
The diocese's attorney, Randal Mathis, vowed to appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, although he told the jury, "There's absolutely no doubt the diocese received your message very, very clearly."
Windle Turley, who represented eight of the plaintiffs during the 11-week trial, said, "We asked this jury to speak to the world, and they have done that."
"This verdict gives a clear voice to the conscience of our community about the sexual abuse of children," said Sylvia Demarest, who represented the other three plaintiffs.
In a resounding defeat for the Dallas Diocese, the jury of 10 women and two men answered all the questions in its charge in favor of the plaintiffs. Mr. Kos was found partly responsible for injuries to the plaintiffs, but the jury apportioned the majority of responsibility to the diocese.
Jurors asked state District Judge Anne Ashby to read in open court a statement in which they admonished the diocese. Noting "the child is of the utmost importance," the jurors urged the diocese to institute stricter rules to protect children from sexual abuse.
"Please admit your guilt and allow these young men to get on with their lives," the jurors wrote.
The courtroom, filled with the plaintiffs, their families and friends, erupted in a 30-second standing ovation.
Jurors expressed disappointment that Bishop Charles Grahmann, who became head of the diocese in 1990, did not stay to hear the judge read their statement. While they were composing it, the bishop read his own statement in an adjoining courtroom, then left after taking no questions from reporters.
"The Diocese of Dallas remains committed to abiding by the final outcome of this case," said Bishop Grahmann in a prepared statement. "Even though the judicial process will continue, we assure all victims, including the parties in this case, that we will continue our assistance of therapy and counseling.
"It is important for everyone to understand that the diocese is committed to helping and healing its people."
Among the jury's findings were that the diocese committed fraud and engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse. Jurors also found that sexual abuse by Mr. Kos and the diocese's negligence were the "proximate cause" of the suicide of a young man.
"He was murdered by the Dallas Diocese because they let Father Rudy Kos into their little regime, and he got away with it," said Pat Lemberger of Nacogdoches, Texas, whose 21-year-old son, Jay Lemberger, shot himself in 1992.
Mr. Mathis never questioned during the trial that Mr. Kos sexually abused boys at All Saints Catholic Church in North Dallas, St. Luke's church in Irving and St. John's church in Ennis from 1981 to 1992. Most of the abuse, which began with foot massages, occurred during overnight stays in Mr. Kos' rectory room.
But Mr. Mathis argued that the diocese should not be found liable for Mr. Kos' behavior because it investigated suspicions about his behavior with boys and concluded that sexual abuse was not occurring.
He also pointed out that the diocese removed Mr. Kos as soon as the first youth complained of sexual abuse in 1992.
The 52-year-old Mr. Kos, who is a free-lance paralegal in San Diego, never attended the trial, although he sent a letter to Bishop Grahmann last month in which he chided the diocese for not supporting him financially and denied the sexual abuse allegations.
Mr. Kos, who has been living under an assumed name, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. In a previous interview with The Dallas Morning News , he said he had overcome his attraction to boys through intensive therapy but couldn't discuss "which ones I had sex with."
He said he was sorry "for anything I may have done" and would say Mass again if given the chance. At present, he is barred from performing priestly duties.
At the beginning of the trial, Judge Ashby ruled that Mr. Kos was liable for the abuse because he never responded to the lawsuits. He faces a criminal trial on related charges, perhaps this year.
After the verdict, Mr. Mathis said the case is "replete with constitutional issues." He said that most of the plaintiffs violated the statute of limitations by filing their lawsuits too late.
Mr. Turley and Ms. Demarest expressed confidence that the verdict would be upheld on appeal, which they said could take up to four years.
The only church official present for the jury's statement was Monsignor John Bell, who sat at the defense table with the diocese's lawyers.
Asked afterward whether the church would admit guilt, he replied: "I don't know how to answer that question. . . . I don't know what admit your guilt' is."
The term implies criminal wrongdoing rather than the civil liability that was at issue in the trial, he said.
As for the jury's request for policy changes to prevent further abuses, he said that the diocese had already enacted or was in the process of implementing them.
The jury, in answering the questions on the charge, assigned a percentage of responsibility to the diocese for the abuse of each of the plaintiffs.
The diocese was found 80 or 85 percent liable for most of the plaintiffs, with Mr. Kos being found liable for the remainder. The lowest percentage of liability for the church - 50 percent - was for Jim Sibert, who lived with Mr. Kos for three years in a rectory under the guise of being adopted.
Still, the diocese is liable for the entire jury award under the concept of "joint and several" liability, Mr. Turley said.
Mr. Turley and the other attorneys would not discuss their own compensation.
Plaintiffs had sought $ 146.5 million in actual and punitive damages.
The jury, which included two former Catholics, awarded $ 101.6 million in actual damages. The damages, including punitive, will earn interest at the rate of 10 percent a year for the four years since the first lawsuit was filed.The actual damages for each plaintiff were as high as $ 300,000 in future medical expenses, $ 2 million in lost future earnings and $ 4.8 million in future "mental anguish."
"I hope now the victims around the world will obtain the courage and strength to come forward," said plaintiff Shawn Johnson, 29, of Plano, at a news conference where plaintiffs embraced. "We know the shame, guilt and embarrassment. But know this as well: You are not alone."
Lee Hart, 28, said he didn't think he could return to the Catholic church "after all that came out in the trial." Most of the plaintiffs didn't know each other before the trial but said they became close friends after they heard - often for the first time - others' similar accounts of sexual abuse during the trial.
Many said during the trial that they had lost their faith because of the abuse and the way it was handled by the diocese.
"One of the deepest voids I have now is not having a spiritual outlet," said Mr. Hart, who now lives near Detroit. "Nothing can make up for what happened."
The jury's verdict on actual damages was read by Judge Ashby at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.
Jurors then heard an hour of testimony about the diocese's finances before considering whether to award punitive damages.
After sometimes hostile questioning of the diocese's chief financial officer, Mr. Turley told jurors that the diocese had assets of at least $ 290 million, although he said it was impossible to pin down exactly how much.
"You need to all pull together with a little more courage and do the thing that needs to be done," Mr. Turley said in arguing for punitive damages. "Speak to the people of Ireland, speak to Rome, speak to New York City, speak to Seattle - wherever people are exposed to sexual abuse by pastors or priests."
Mr. Mathis then asked, in a voice so quiet that it could barely be heard by the packed courtroom of about 60 people, that the jury not award any punitive damages. He disputed the asset figure given by Mr. Turley.
"As you can imagine, I really don't know what to say," Mr. Mathis said. "Everybody here is under a great deal of strain."
Throughout the trial's often dramatic testimony, the plaintiffs' lawyers argued that church officials ignored "a mountain of evidence" that indicated Mr. Kos was sexually abusing boys.
The Rev. Tom Economus, who has tracked clergy-abuse cases around the country, said the Dallas judgment is the largest of its kind. He said there were no other verdicts or out-of-court settlements that went much beyond $ 12 million.
Father Economus estimates that Catholic dioceses have paid out $ 650 million in settlements since the mid-1980s, when the first such scandal hit the courts. That case, in Lafayette, La., ended with more than $ 10 million in payments and the accused priest being sent to prison.
Since then, hundreds of similar cases have come to light.
Settling ones that are still pending could easily push the payout total over $ 1 billion, Father Economus said.
"Nobody ever wants to go to court," said the priest, who is active in the breakaway Reform Catholic movement and heads a Chicago-based national organization of clergy-abuse survivors called The Linkup. "It's the last alternative we have."
Father Economus helped found The Linkup several years ago as he tried to come to terms with being molested as a child by a priest at a South Dakota boys school. A federal lawsuit against the school could come to trial in September; the priest has since died in the crash of a small plane he was piloting while drunk, he said.
Most such suits are settled out of court because plaintiffs' evidence is so strong, Father Economus said. For that reason, he said, he's shocked that a jury got to hear the Dallas case.
"I've seen a lot less messy ones and they've never made it to trial," the priest said.
"Of the cases that have gone to trial, this really goes far beyond what we've seen" in terms of embarrassing revelations, he said. "It shows the entire conspiracy of the Roman Catholic Church, which goes far beyond the Dallas Diocese."
A lawyer for Lloyd's of London, which insures the Dallas Diocese and many others, echoed Father Economus' remarks.
"We always try to not have the cases go to trial," said the Chicago attorney, Richard F. Johnson. "The ones that go to trial have usually ended badly."
Mr. Johnson said he has seen a pattern of misbehavior among church officials: "They would learn of a priest having these tendencies and reassign him."
Thus, when further abuse occurred, "it was not something unexpected," and insurers would refuse to pay.
Church leaders seemed far more concerned with avoiding scandal than protecting children, he said.
"Their main concern in the earlier years was God forbid anyone should know,' " Mr. Johnson said. And where dioceses have cracked down and begun screening prospective clergymen more strictly, it's largely "because of what they were seeing about themselves in the paper."
The plaintiffs' attorneys introduced evidence about alleged sexual abuse by other Dallas Diocese priests during the trial.
Robert Peebles, who served with Mr. Kos at All Saints church in 1981 and 1982, has admitted in a deposition that he sexually abused seven boys.
William Hughes is accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl at St. Luke's church, shortly before Mr. Kos was transferred there in the mid-1980s.
Mr. Turley has estimated that Mr. Kos, who plied boys with alcohol and drugs, may have sexually abused as many as 50 boys.
[Staff writers Tracy Everbach and Christine Wicker contributed to this report.]
By Christine Wicker
Dallas Catholics said they were agonizing more about the church learning lessons than about raising money Thursday in the wake of a $119.6 million civil verdict against the Catholic Diocese and a former priest.
The jury found the diocese "grossly negligent" for failing to protect 11 boys from sexual abuse at the hands of former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.
University of Dallas theology professor Douglas Bushman called this a dark moment for the church, and, like others, he borrowed a religious analogy, calling this a Good Friday and wondering what kind of Easter Sunday could be made of it.
"We have to look to a supernatural power to make sure that evil doesn't triumph over good," said Mr. Bushman, who is part of a special committee formed by Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann to help the diocese deal with the aftermath of the trial.
He said he hoped the verdict would be an occasion for soul searching in the church. "If we respond with faith and hope in Him, then we can actually grow from it," he said. "That's the wisdom you see in the New Testament and that's how I live my own life."
Among those in the courtroom watching the end of the trial was a group of parishioners and former parishioners from All Saints Catholic Church, who were at the church during Mr. Kos' tenure. Pat Pusateri was one of them.
"I'm thrilled," she said of the verdict. "I think these kids are now going to get the help they need, and a lot of them didn't have the money."
Brenda Cooke, whose son served as an altar boy at All Saints when Mr. Kos was there, was also among that group. "I think it's wonderful for these boys to finally get justice," she said. Asked if she felt any sympathy for diocesan officials, she replied, "No, not right now."
"I hope they have learned a lesson," said Josefina Pacheco, a member of St. Pius Catholic Church. Mrs. Pacheco and her husband, Juan, were also present at the verdict. They attended all but the first two weeks of the trial.
"I hope this is a message that they need to start paying attention to what the people are saying to them," said Mrs. Pacheco, who said officials of the diocese have ignored registered letters she and her family have sent them regarding church problems.
"If they hear from other people now, maybe they will at least acknowledge their letters," she said.
David Bellavance, a former member of All Saints Catholic Church, said the trial follows a pattern of ignoring the laity.
"The saying that the Catholic laity is supposed to pray, pay and obey is the old style of doing things, and that is exactly what you see here," he said. "I think [plaintiffs' attorneys] Sylvia [Demarest] and Windle [Turley] are right that a message has to be sent that it's no longer going to be business as usual."
Steve Grzywacz, a member at Plano's Prince of Peace Catholic Church, said the church has already started to address some of the problems that allowed the abuse to continue. In addition, many church officials who testified were not those in place when the problems began, he said.
The jury's award was a little high, he said.
"I don't know how you put a price on that sort of thing," he said.
"But the people in the parishes are going to have to pay for it."
He wasn't sure church members would want their money going toward paying for the verdict.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to say, `Wait a minute. This is a a priestly problem, a problem with the hierarchy, not a congregational problem ' "
Ann Herman from St. Mark the Evangelist in Plano also questioned whether the jury should have awarded so much. "I feel personally that the money is a lot more than was necessary," she said. "But I think they're doing this as an example, as a warning to other dioceses" She will continue to support the bishop and the local diocese, she said.
"It's made us aware that priests are human also and as much subject to sin as anyone else. We have to pray for them and their frailties and pray that a great healing will take place," she said.
"This is human error," said Mrs. Pacheco. "We don't believe this had to do with God or with the Catholic religion."
Mr. Bushman, who is director of the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies at the University of Dallas, said Catholics need to keep their focus on Jesus when assessing any mistakes that might have been made by church officials and when thinking about raising any money that the diocese might need because of the judgment.
"Americans try to isolate themselves from others' bad decisions,
but that's not how Jesus acted," said Mr. Bushman. "He became
a man precisely to take upon himself the consequences of people's bad
Victims Urge Others to Make Stand, Seek Aid
By Ed Housewright
Shawn Johnson kept his sexual abuse secret for more than a decade.
But after a jury returned a $119.6 million judgment against the Dallas Catholic Diocese and a former priest on Thursday, Mr. Johnson quickly shed his anonymity before a horde of reporters and called on all sexual abuse victims to "stand against the Catholic Church. "
"We can say, `No more - no more cover-ups, no more indifference to children, no more lies,' " said Mr. Johnson, 29, of Plano.
Mr. Johnson, one of the oldest plaintiffs who accused the Rev. Rudolph "Rudy" Kos of sexual abuse, was followed at the microphone by the youngest plaintiff, Nathan Nichols of Ennis. For most of the victims, the abuse started in their early teens.
"I'm an 18-year-old boy who has grown up having to deal with this," said Mr. Nichols, who recently graduated from high school.
"It hasn't been easy, but I will tell everybody, if you are a victim of abuse, please come forward. You have to have help."
Some of the plaintiffs had vowed to remain anonymous even if they received a positive verdict, but they stepped forward at the news conference. Hugs and applause greeted them.
Lee Hart, 28, said he was rendered "speechless" by the jury's verdict.
"The fact that our peers were horrified over what happened makes me feel very good," said Mr. Hart, who now lives near Detroit. "And the support we've been shown throughout the trial has been great."
One of the victims was missing. Jay Lemberger committed suicide in 1992 at age 21 after years of sexual abuse, the jury determined.
His father, Pat Lemberger of Nacogdoches, Texas, expressed his anger at the diocese.
"If they don't clean up their act and help the boys now, we're going to have another Jay Lemberger," he said. "If they say they're going to take care of the victims, by golly, don't lie like they have for years and cover it up."
His wife, Nancy Lemberger, embraced the other plaintiffs.
"I feel like all these boys are my sons," she said. "I believe that the Lord truly has been with us through all this and that Jay is looking down and is very pleased."
Unlike many, Ms. Lemberger said she hadn't lost her faith because of the church's handling of the abuse.
"It's a little shaky, but it will come back," she said.
And she offered her thoughts on Mr. Kos.
"I feel for him because he's sick," she said.
Other plaintiffs weren't so charitable toward Mr. Kos, who never showed up for the trial.
"I don't know if I'd have much to say to him," Robert Hultz, 25, of Dallas, said in an interview. "I think I'd kill the man."
Michael Pawlik, the first young man to complain of sexual abuse, said he thinks he could now "stand up to" Mr. Kos.
"I'm not afraid of him anymore," said Mr. Pawlik, 23. "I might want to sit down and talk to him. I'd like to hear what he has to say about what he's done. But I wouldn't want to be alone."
Several plaintiffs complained that Bishop Charles V. Grahmann hadn't personally apologized to them for the sexual abuse.
Monsignor John Bell, who spoke for the diocese after Bishop Grahmann delivered a brief statement, said the bishop planned to write a letter of apology to each of the plaintiffs and possibly meet with them.
Mr. Pawlik said he wouldn't accept an apology.
"I don't want him to apologize," he said. "It would be just a slap in the face. I would know he wouldn't mean it. He's had plenty of time to come up with a sincere apology."
Many of the plaintiffs are in counseling for the abuse. They testified that their problems have manifested themselves in drug and alcohol addiction, interrupted education, spotty work history and relationship problems.
"I've lost 10 years of my life," said Mr. Hultz, crying.
He was awarded the most of any of the plaintiffs for loss of future earning capacity, $2 million, and future mental anguish, $4.8 million.
He delivered wrenching testimony during the trial, saying that Mr. Kos justified his sexual abuse by invoking the name of God.
"You're in God's hands," he said Mr. Kos told him once after performing oral sex on him at the rectory of All Saints Catholic Church in North Dallas.
Then he led him to a church shower and sexually abused him after telling him he would "cleanse" him with holy water.
"So many Catholics live in a bubble," Mr. Hultz said. "I'll bet they're are a lot of Catholics out there who still don't believe the abuse happened. "
[Staff writer Christine Wicker contributed to this report.]
By Ed Housewright
A hero has emerged for the plaintiffs in the $119.6 million sexual-abuse verdict against former Catholic priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos and the Dallas Diocese.
The Rev. Robert Williams of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana is being credited by plaintiffs and jurors with providing courageous testimony against the diocese about Mr. Kos' conduct with boys at an Ennis church where they both served.
"I admire Father Williams very much," said Michael Pawlik, whose sexual-abuse allegations in September 1992 resulted in the removal of Mr. Kos. "If there's anybody who can restore my faith in the church, it would be a person like Father Williams.
"All the other priests were very reluctant to speak the truth. They almost had to have the truth dragged out of them. It's clear where Father Williams' priorities are. I think he is a man who practices his faith."
On Sunday, three days after the verdict, Mr. Pawlik and most of the other 10 plaintiffs plan to attend services at Father Williams' church to show their appreciation for his testimony.
Father Williams, 42, said he appreciates the praise but said he felt he had no choice but to testify about Mr. Kos' actions and the diocese's response.
"There was a failure of responsibility, and we have to recognize that," said Father Williams, whose first assignment after seminary was working as Mr. Kos' assistant pastor. "In that sense, this jury's verdict is probably just." Father Williams wrote an exhaustive, 12-page account of the boys' sleepovers in Mr. Kos' rectory room at St. John's church in 1991-92 and warned Bishop Charles Grahmann that it was "only a matter of time" before a boy complained of sexual molestation.
Still, Mr. Kos was allowed to stay on as pastor. In fact, Bishop Grahmann testified that he never read the letter.
Another plaintiff, Wade Schlossstein Jr. , said that the priest's testimony was essential.
"It was very apparent that all the other priests up there had things to hide," Mr. Schlossstein said. "It was good for people to see a priest who said, `Hey, I'm part of this diocese. I'm going to be honest. '
"He cared about the children. He didn't care about himself or his job or where he would be next year because of his testimony."
Jurors also praised Father Williams for his comments.
"He was a very honest priest trying very, very hard to tell the diocese that something's wrong here," said Susan Koons, the jury forewoman. "Father Williams affirmed for the 11 plaintiffs . . .
that, yes, there is somebody out there that believes what you're saying.
"He didn't stick his head in the sand. I think he's a very moral, very ethical, very caring human being."
Father Williams was visiting his parents in Houston when the verdict was announced Thursday but saw it on the TV news.
His "first great test of integrity" was dealing with Mr. Kos, he said.
"The trial also was a challenge to my integrity. I tried to follow my conscience and tell the truth. The most basic lesson learned from all this is that you fight evil by facing it and saying, `This is evil. ' "
Father Williams said he had not been criticized by diocese leaders for his testimony.
"When I left the witness stand, the bishop shook my hand as I walked away," he said. "Father Duffy [Gardner] said, `You did the right thing. ' He said he wasn't mad at me."
Father Williams' letter, which was introduced during the trial, provides a rare look into Mr. Kos' conduct with boys. He wrote, among other things, that he saw a boy in bed with Mr. Kos.
"One boy was the favorite and would sleep over five nights a week," he wrote. "Rudy did not hide the boys' presence. He would cook for them and give them free run of the rectory. I could see that the staff did not like it but were reluctant to say anything.
"Rudy was constantly buying them [the boys] presents and lots of food. . . . He was always very physical with the boys. When he hugged them, he would hold them tightly against him and then rub them against him, almost like they were a towel with which he was drying himself. Other times he would hold them up against him and tickle them."
He said many parents refused to let their children come to the rectory because "it seemed wrong to them."
"The boys that came over were mostly from either broken homes or large families where the boys did not get much attention," Father Williams wrote.
He wrote in the letter to Bishop Grahmann in June 1992 that he had met with the No. 2 diocese official at the time, Monsignor Robert Rehkemper, in late 1991 to complain of the sleepovers.
Monsignor Rehkemper had also met with another priest, the Rev. Daniel Clayton of Irving's St. Luke's church, as early as 1985 about the sleepovers. Mr. Kos was warned, but the overnight stays continued.
In April 1992, Father Williams and Monsignor Rehkemper met with a social worker who said Mr. Kos sounded like a "classic, textbook pedophile" and should be removed immediately.
When he was allowed to stay on after two months, Father Williams wrote his letter to Bishop Grahmann.
"I wanted to make sure the diocese got the full report," Father Williams said in an interview Friday. "I put it as graphically as I could to get their attention. I stand by everything in it."
[Staff writer Christine Wicker contributed to this report. ]
By Brooks Egerton and Ed Housewright
[Name of Kos survivor redacted at the survivor's request.]
The criminal case against suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos appeared to be broadening Friday, even as Dallas Catholic Diocese representatives predicted that the prosecution could fizzle.
Another plaintiff in the molestation civil case has signed an affidavit of prosecution, bringing to three the number who have done so. And several other young men who won a $119.6 million judgment against the diocese and the priest Thursday say they plan to meet with the Dallas County district attorney's office soon in hope of piling charges on Mr. Kos.
"All our boys want to do that," said Windle Turley, attorney for eight of the 11 plaintiffs. "They want to cooperate and push ahead as vigorously as possible.
"They feel this is still part of what needs to be taken care of."
Prosecutors said they are willing to review new cases while pressing on with the two in which they've already won indictments.
Mr. Kos' criminal trial on charges of indecency with a child and sexual contact could still be months away, his lawyer said.
Bronson Havard, who launched the diocese's "crisis team" in the waning days of the civil trial, suggested that "it's really doubtful there's going to be a criminal trial."
Plaintiffs may not want to bother with it now that "they've got $15 or $20 million each," said Mr. Havard, editor of the official diocesan newspaper Texas Catholic.
He said that even if the case proceeds, "most of these allegations won't stand up in a criminal proceeding." The standard of proof, he noted, is higher in such a trial than in the civil case that ended with the largest clergy-abuse judgment in U.S. history.
Randal Mathis, the diocese's attorney, also has questioned the strength of the criminal case and the young men's commitment to it.
He has stressed that the diocese - not plaintiffs' attorneys - first reported complaints about Mr. Kos to criminal authorities.
Plaintiffs, who say they've been struggling for years to cope with what happened to them, reacted angrily to the comments.
"That's a crock," said Nathan Nichols, who at 18 is the youngest of the plaintiffs and the only one from Ellis County. He said he'd been talking with his parents and Mr. Turley about seeking prosecution in his county, too.
"I'm thinking about it very seriously," Mr. Nichols said. "It will probably come to that."
Mr. Kos, he said, "needs to be out of society. He's sick. He needs to be kept away from other kids."
Sylvia Demarest, attorney for the two plaintiffs whose allegations have already brought criminal indictments against Mr. Kos, accused Mr. Havard of trying to disparage her clients.
"All three of my clients are going to prosecute this bastard," she said. "There's a whole lot more at stake here than money.
"They're willing to put themselves out there so that other victims will come forward."
Mr. Kos, who is free on bail and living under an assumed name in San Diego, declined to comment Friday. In an earlier interview with The Dallas Morning News , he said he expected to be exonerated in the two criminal cases pending against him.
But he also expressed fear that fellow inmates would kill him if he was sent to prison.
"I'm not a hardened criminal," Mr. Kos said. "I'd be absolutely defenseless."
Mr. Kos' criminal trial originally was set for July 14 but now probably will be postponed until after the first of the year, his criminal lawyer, Brad Lollar, said last week. He also said he probably would ask for a change of venue.
Mr. Lollar was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Mike Gillett said prosecutors previously concluded that they probably couldn't pursue some cases because of the statute of limitations. Prosecutors are prepared to look at the cases again, he said.
First Assistant District Attorney Norm Kinne said that the 10-year clock on filing charges stops running when a defendant leaves the state, as Mr. Kos did in 1992.
The two cases already filed against him - involving civil plaintiffs Lee Hart, 28, and [Redacted], 26 - stem from abuse alleged to have occurred in 1983 and 1984. The latest to sign an affidavit of prosecution is Robert Hultz, 25.
Ellis County District Attorney Joe F. Grubbs said he would consider prosecuting Mr. Kos if he gets a case from police in Ennis, where Mr. Nichols attended St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church. Mr. Kos was pastor there until diocese leaders sent him to New Mexico for pedophilia treatment five years ago.
Mr. Grubbs and Mr. Gillett declined to speculate on whether the diocese could be prosecuted on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspicion of child abuse.
The diocese says it removed Mr. Kos and notified child-welfare authorities shortly after receiving the first abuse complaint.
However, Mr. Turley successfully argued in the civil trial that church officials had reason to believe Mr. Kos was molesting boys many years earlier.
Also, the attorney has noted that the diocese didn't tell parishioners the real reason for the priest's removal. Mr. Kos subsequently committed more abuse while on leave from the treatment center, according to testimony in the civil trial.
Mr. Havard said that Bishop Charles Grahmann had to move deliberately in removing Mr. Kos.
In medieval times, he said, "the Vatican instituted reforms to prevent bishops from removing priests arbitrarily. A bishop has to be careful or Rome will reverse him."
Bishop Grahmann - who recently wrote a letter to all parishioners on Mr. Havard's advice - declined interview requests Friday, as he has generally done since the abuse scandal surfaced in 1993.
All priests in the nine-county diocese were expected last Sunday to read the letter, in which the bishop announced new spiritual initiatives "for all victims of child abuse, known and unknown."
Such action, the diocesan leader suggested, might "help atone for the evil that has touched us all.”
The letter went unread at at least three churches, Mr. Havard acknowledged. He said he was still trying to determine why.
"I hope it was not someone substituting their judgment for the bishop's," he said.
The Rev. Jose Saldana is pastor of St. Elizabeth in Bonham, one of the churches where the letter wasn't read. Asked Friday about the document and what lies ahead for the diocese, he said: "I have no idea, and I'm not interested in making any comments." Then he hung up.
[Staff writer Steve Scott contributed to this report.]
Dallas jurors decided Thursday that the local Catholic diocese could have done more to protect altar boys from a child-molesting priest. To emphasize its conclusion, the jury awarded a stunning $119.6 million to 11 plaintiffs for assaults between 1981 and 1992.
While the monetary award may seem excessive, it's hard to disagree with the jury's heart-felt opinion.
Former priest Rudy Kos is every institution's nightmare: the charming authority figure who cons parents and assaults their children. Most of those around him were deceived. He himself had no boundaries, molesting children even in the closely observed environment of a parish rectory.
It is not the fault of local church officials that a con man slipped through seminary and into a collar. But officials at any institution cannot expect child molesters to turn themselves in.
And they cannot expect children to navigate institutional hierarchy to report abuse. Institutional leaders must rely on reports and observations from other staff members, volunteers, parents, counselors and friends.
Leaders of the Dallas diocese received multiple warnings about Father Kos. Fellow priests complained about sleepovers in the rectory. His ex-wife noted suspicions about him when he entered a seminary. A social worker said he fit the profile of a pedophile.
None of these allegations proves guilt, but most youth development groups probably would have moved Mr. Kos away from youngsters until after an investigation.
It has been painful to watch high-ranking clergymen, who have dedicated their lives to the church, cross-examined on a witness stand. They have sacrificed much to follow their faith, and Father Kos' betrayal must pain them deeply.
But it is regrettable that local diocesan leaders waited until well into the trial to issue apologies and organize task forces. It would have been welcome for the top officials to remain in the courtroom for the jury statement, as a sign they truly understand and admit the problem. Open acknowledgement of problems is especially important now, as the church tries to recruit priests to fill the many positions that have been left vacant as aging clerics retire.
The Catholic Church and the diocese will survive this episode and the heavy financial burden of the judgment. Lay Catholics - and most outside observers - understand the verdict is not an indictment of the faith. It is, instead, this message: Every institution has a greater duty to protect children from abuse than to protect itself from scandal.
By Brooks Egerton
Even as Dallas Catholic leaders vow to appeal Thursday's massive molestation and conspiracy judgment, they've also been talking about how to pay.
The diocese's attorney, Randal Mathis, confirmed such discussions Saturday but declined to reveal details. A look at local church assets and the outcomes of other clergy-abuse cases, however, provides some insight into what may lie ahead.
Parishioners, say people who've followed those lawsuits, can expect to feel the pinch as insurance companies balk at helping.
The Rev. Jay Nelson, a New Mexico priest who edits a national newsletter that documents religious misconduct, said the Catholic Church can afford to pay the judgment.
While hailing the verdict, he predicted that church officials would press ordinary folks in the pews rather than tap major investments.
"It undoubtedly will come back to the parishioners," Father Nelson said. "The only hope is they'll demand more accountability of their leaders."
Plaintiffs attorney Windle Turley says the nearly $120 million jury award is already worth about $150 million because of interest dating to the 1993 filing of the Dallas suit, which accused the Rev. Rudolph "Rudy" Kos of more than a decade of abuse and the diocese of covering it up.
Assuming appeals proceed as promised to the U.S. Supreme Court and the judgment is upheld, interest could push the total to about $200 million over the next three to five years. That translates to more than $600 apiece for the 325,000 registered Catholics in the nine-county diocese.
"A heavy burden has been placed on us all," Bishop Charles V. Grahmann wrote in a weekend letter to his priests, "and I ask your continued prayers as we move into the future." The bishop, who continued to refuse interview requests Saturday, told the pastors that "no immediate threat exists against any parish property at this time, and we'll keep you informed regarding this matter as the appeal progresses."
Bronson Havard, editor of the diocesan newspaper Texas Catholic and a close adviser of Bishop Grahmann's, said that "there's been no significant talk of bankruptcy. "
"Unless we're going to start closing schools and churches . . . there's no need of a bankruptcy filing."
Plaintiffs attorney Sylvia Demarest said the diocese has enough liability insurance to cover the judgment. But it's not clear how much good those policies will do. Insurers around the country have been refusing to pay for clergy abuse, arguing just as plaintiffs successfully have - that church leaders knew who the dangerous priests were and failed to remove them.
"If they knew the priest had this tendency to sexually abuse young children, it was not something unexpected" and thus was not covered by insurance, said Lloyd's of London lawyer Richard F. Johnson. His firm insures the Dallas diocese and many others.
A few years ago, insurance companies in New Mexico sued in an effort to avoid paying several dozen Catholic clergy-abuse claims believed to have totaled tens of millions of dollars.
In the face of such resistance, Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan urged parishes statewide in 1993 to contribute cash and property toward out-of-court settlements. The former Dallas priest's appeal, made on the Sunday before Christmas, warned that the alternative might be bankruptcy.
He ultimately avoided that fate by, among other things, borrowing from parishes' savings accounts and selling holdings such as the Dominican Retreat in Albuquerque. Insurers also contributed an undisclosed amount to settle litigation between themselves and the archdiocese.
Chicago archdiocese officials, fighting a financial crisis fueled in part by an estimated $15 million in sex scandal settlements, have shut down dozens of churches and schools in the past decade.
Trying to stave off punitive damages in court last week, Dallas church representatives argued that the jury's award of $101.6 million in compensatory damages alone far exceeded the diocese's net assets. The officials placed that figure at about $19 million.
That sum is merely the chancery office's holdings, plaintiffs attorneys told jurors. They cited church documents showing that the diocese insures hundreds of buildings, for $264 million, and also has nearly 700 acres of land for which no value was stated.
Mr. Turley, grilling diocesan chief financial officer Michael Weis , asked: "You folks don't know the total? "
His reply: "The value? That's correct - we don't."
Mr. Weis also testified that the diocese has no overall financial statement and that he was not aware of any investments it held.
Some jurors said in interviews that such assertions typified church officials' lack of candor during the trial.
"He didn't want to answer," said panelist Jo Toles. "They're worse than politicians."
Other diocesan assets include funds raised for charity through the Catholic Community Appeal, though Bishop Grahmann has promised that new donations won't be used in the lawsuit.
"We pledge that 100 percent of the 1998 CCA donations will go to charities and services intended by you," he told about 300 major donors in a recent speech. "I am pleased to report that we excelled in our 1996 campaign and we are running ahead of last year in collecting those pledges."
Aside from these assets are more than $100 million managed by the Catholic Foundation, which is legally independent of the diocese but closely connected. The bishop is among trustees of the organization, which awards most of its grants to Catholic schools, churches and other institutions.
The foundation owns Aquinas Investment Advisers, which manages the Dallas-based Aquinas Funds. The funds reported about $144 million in assets to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission in 1996; about $47 million of that total is the foundation's own money, with the rest held in trust.
Given the diocese's exposure, and given a defense that jurors say they questioned from early on, why did this case end up in court at all? Most others have been resolved before trial because of overwhelming evidence against the church, said the Rev. Tom Economus, a Chicago priest who has tracked hundreds of clergy-abuse cases across the country.
Settlement talks in Dallas broke down long ago, with each side calling the other's offer unreasonable.
"They wanted in the tens of millions of dollars total," said Mr. Mathis, the defense attorney.
Responded Ms. Demarest: "It could have been settled for far less than the verdict."
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