Dallas Resources – September 1997
By Ed Housewright
The Dallas Catholic Diocese is asking the Vatican to take the unusual step of nullifying the ordination of suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos on the grounds that he deceived church officials about his background and sexual orientation.
If the request is granted, it would mean that Mr. Kos was never an ordained priest, Monsignor John Bell, the No. 3 Dallas official, said Tuesday.
"It is one of a series of moves that attempt to isolate Father Kos from the Catholic community," he said. "It is aimed at bringing about some closure, if possible, regarding Rudy Kos. " On July 24, a jury awarded 11 plaintiffs in a sexual-abuse civil suit against Mr. Kos and the diocese $119.6 million. Jurors unanimously found that the diocese was grossly negligent and concealed information in its handling of Mr. Kos.
Monsignor Bell, a canon lawyer who proposed the nullification, wouldn't speculate on the chances that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican would grant the request or when it might rule. Research indicates that the last nullification granted on grounds of misrepresentation was in 1950, Monsignor Bell said.
Another canon lawyer, or expert in church law, who testified for the plaintiffs during the 11-week trial said he thought it was extremely unlikely that the Vatican would grant the nullification.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former Vatican Embassy lawyer, said he didn't think misrepresentation by Mr. Kos would be adequate grounds for a nullification. He also said that seeking a nullification now is "kind of late. " "The damage has been done," said Father Doyle, a chaplain at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. "I'm very suspicious. Is this a ploy to make the church look a little better?
"They ignored warnings for years and didn't do anything. You can't undo that. " The diocese suspended Mr. Kos as a priest in 1993, 14 months after the first youth complained of being sexually abused by him.
That means he can't perform priestly functions. Since his suspension, the diocese has cut off financial support to Mr. Kos, who is living under an assumed name in San Diego.
Mr. Kos in January petitioned the Vatican to have his suspension lifted and financial support by the Dallas Diocese reinstated. He declined to comment Tuesday night, saying he needed to consult with the person who's advising him to get the suspension lifted.
By seeking a nullification, the diocese is agreeing with the plaintiffs' contention that Mr. Kos was never suited to be a priest, said Sylvia Demarest, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
"It confirms everything the plaintiffs were saying at the trial," she said.
The request for nullification would have no effect on the diocese's planned appeal of the civil verdict or on Mr. Kos' upcoming criminal trial, Monsignor Bell said.
Monsignor Bell said he believes church officials were diligent in scrutinizing Mr. Kos' application to enter seminary and become a priest but that he deceived church officials with lies about his background.
If the diocese succeeds in nullifying Mr. Kos' ordination under church law, it is unlikely that it "would adversely impact the status of personal sacraments he administered," according to a news release announcing the request for nullification.
"I think it's something that can be readily explained and people's concerns relieved," Monsignor Bell said in an interview.
"Everybody who went to him for any sacrament did so in good faith.
God deals with us in terms of our intent. " Marriages conducted by Father Kos would still be valid, Monsignor Bell said.
"Even if Father Kos was the priest, the critical thing was that two individuals were making their consent in a public manner," he said. "There's even church law that allows, when a priest is not available for a significant period, for a couple to be married in a public ceremony and the marriage is valid. " But Father Doyle said a nullification would "cause tremendous confusion. " "To nullify means a person was never a priest," he said. "That means all the stuff he did as a priest, all the weddings, presumably, if you look at it from a legalistic viewpoint, never happened. " Father Doyle said he thought it was more likely that the Vatican would "laicize" Mr. Kos than nullify his ordination. That doesn't imply that he was never a priest.
Monsignor Bell said "in a way we don't care if they do that. " Officials' intent, he said, is to "prevent him from being able to continue to present himself as a priest of the diocese. " A nullification would prevent Mr. Kos from ever receiving money from the diocese again, Monsignor Bell said.
"That would be a side effect," he said. "I can't deny that. That wasn't what our motive was. Our motive was mainly getting him out and allowing the rest of the community to move on.”
[Staff writer Brooks Egerton contributed to this report.]
By Ed Housewright
The prominent law firm of Haynes and Boone has been hired by the Dallas Catholic Diocese to help prepare its appeal of a $119.6 million judgment in a sexual-abuse lawsuit, the diocese announced Tuesday.
Haynes and Boone, which has 300 lawyers in offices in Dallas and six other cities, will assist trial lawyer Randal Mathis in the appeal, said diocese spokesman Bronson Havard.
"All along, Randy said there will need to be more lawyers involved," said Mr. Havard, editor of the Texas Catholic. "There are different aspects of it, and there are specialists in each aspect."
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann hired Haynes and Boone following the recommendation of a four-member advisory committee headed by Dallas businessman Joe Haggar Jr., Mr. Havard said.
"We're pleased and honored to represent the diocese," said George Bramblett Jr., a member of the firm's executive committee who was approached by the advisory committee. "Our objective is to get a new trial or get the verdict substantially reduced.
"It was a runaway verdict. We believe a retrial will produce a different result."
In July, a jury awarded 11 plaintiffs $119.6 million in a suit against the diocese and suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos. Jurors unanimously found that the diocese was grossly negligent and concealed information in its handling of Mr. Kos.
Mr. Bramblett said he thought Haynes and Boone was hired by the diocese because of its expertise in appellate and insurance issues.
He represented the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas in insurance matters after it was sued for gross negligence in the sexual abuse of two boys. A jury awarded the brothers, who were sexually abused by former East Dallas YMCA counselor David Wayne Jones, $250,000.
Mr. Bramblett also represented Children's World Learning Center of Dallas after a jury awarded almost $12 million to a woman who sued the day-care center because her son was sexually abused by another boy there.
The case was settled for an undisclosed amount during appeal, Mr. Bramblett said.
"We've had experience in cases of this type and in the related insurance issues," he said.
Mr. Bramblett said neither he nor any of the four other members of Haynes and Boone's executive committee were Catholic. He said some of the partners are Catholic.
By Ed Housewright and Brooks Egerton
A judge declined Friday to recuse state District Judge Anne Ashby from hearing post-trial motions in the sexual-abuse civil case against the Dallas Catholic Diocese and a suspended priest.
State District Judge Roger E. Towery denied a request by the diocese to remove Judge Ashby, who presided over the trial that ended with a $119.6 million judgment against the diocese. Church attorneys argued that Judge Ashby, who will now hear a defense request for a new trial, showed favoritism toward the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs' attorneys hailed Judge Towery's ruling as a victory, but diocese officials played down the significance, calling it a small part of a potentially long appeal process. Judge Ashby could not be reached for comment.
"There was never a reason to file a motion to recuse," said Sylvia Demarest, who represented three of the 11 plaintiffs in the case. "It was all part of a grand strategy on the part of this diocese to do away with this very just verdict."
Diocese spokesman Bronson Havard said "we didn't have our hopes up high" for the recusal request, filed a week after the July 24 verdict against the diocese and suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.
Judge Towery's ruling was issued without comment Friday to attorneys after a daylong hearing Wednesday.
"We never predicted we would win," said Mr. Havard, editor of the Texas Catholic. "We thought it was something we had to go through to protect our rights.
"Now we're going on to the next stage."
Mr. Havard and diocese attorney Nina Cortell said they were pleased that Judge Towery also denied a request by the plaintiffs' attorneys to impose sanctions against the diocese for filing the recusal motion.
"I believe he found that implicitly there was at least a good faith basis for filing it," Ms. Cortell said.
Mr. Havard said the imposition of sanctions "would have been a setback." He said he viewed Judge Towery's two rulings - against the diocese on recusal and against the plaintiffs on sanctions - "as a draw. "
"That's so ridiculous as to not even justify a response," said Windle Turley, the other lawyer for the plaintiffs. "The diocese has done nothing here to be proud of. It's difficult to get any judge to enter sanctions in any matter.
"I rarely ask for them except in the most extreme cases."
Diocese lawyers contended that Judge Ashby showed favoritism toward the plaintiffs by her courtroom comments after the jury began deliberating - and while it was out of the courtroom - and by hugging a sexual-abuse victim immediately after the verdict.
Judge Ashby said after closing arguments that "if anything like this can ever be positive, then let there be healing and let there be hope." She added, "Everybody in this courtroom has been grieving . . . I've been so close to your tragedy, it just breaks my heart. " Her comments and a photo of her hugging plaintiff Jim Sibert appeared in The Dallas Morning News.
Plaintiffs' attorneys argued that neither the remarks nor the photo constituted grounds for recusal. They pointed out that Judge Ashby also hugged Monsignor John Bell, the No. 3 diocese official, after the verdict.
Mr. Havard said he expected Judge Ashby's "professional bearing to cause her to perform as objectively as any judge would" during the post-trial hearings.
"Although we wanted her off the case, I don't think she'll hold that against us," Mr. Havard said. "I think she's going to rule on the merits of the motions." If Judge Ashby denies the diocese's motions, it will proceed with its appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, church officials have said.
"All our attorneys have been pretty unanimous in believing there are substantial grounds for appeal and that we have a good chance of winning," Mr. Havard said. "It's not over yet "
At the recusal hearing Wednesday, several plaintiffs and their family members attended in support of Judge Ashby, who was not present. The three alternate jurors testified that they thought Judge Ashby was fair and unbiased during the 11-week trial.
Retired state District Judge Pat McDowell, who presides over the state judicial region that includes Dallas County, ordinarily hears recusal motions. He stepped down after acknowledging that he'd had a private conversation about the recusal case with Frank Finn, a lawyer close to the diocese.
Mr. Finn has not discussed the matter publicly.
In the largest judgment ever in a clergy sexual molestation case in the country, Texas jurors awarded 11 plaintiffs $119.6 million on July 24 in a civil case after unanimously finding the Dallas Catholic Diocese committed "gross negligence" and concealed information in its handling of priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.
The 11-week trial concluded in favor of the plaintiffs, holding the diocese responsible for most of the injuries. Among the jury's findings were that the diocese committed fraud and engaged in conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse. Jurors also found that the diocese's negligence and the sexual abuse by Kos were "proximate cause" of the suicide of Jay Lemberger, a victim who shot himself at age 21.
Jurors were permitted by state District Judge Anne Ashby to read a statement admonishing the diocese in open court after the verdict.
The courtroom erupted in a 30-second standing ovation at the conclusion of the statement, which urged the diocese to instill stricter rules to protect children from sexual abuse, adding, "Please admit your guilt and allow these young men to get on with their lives."
At the beginning of the trial in May, Judge Ashby ruled Kos liable for the abuse because he had never responded to the lawsuits. He still faces a criminal trial on related charges.
Kos, 52, has been living under an assumed name and working as a paralegal in San Diego, California, since his removal from the church in 1992. He reportedly sexually abused as many as 50 boys while serving at All Saints Catholic church in North Dallas, St. Luke's church in Irving and St. John's church in Ennis from 1981-92. According to testimony, most of the abuse began with foot massages and progressed to oral and anal intercourse during overnight stays in Kos' rectory room.
One of the victims testified that the priest abused him for four years, beginning at age 10. Another victim told jurors that he was sexually abused by Kos about 350 times. Several love letters Kos wrote to the boy after he and his family moved out of state were introduced as evidence.
Although Kos committed the crimes, the diocese was the target of the trial due to its lack of action in the face of a "mountain of evidence" that indicated Kos was abusing boys, said plaintiff lawyers Windle Turley and Sylvia Demarest.
They charged that a reasonable investigation by church officials would have revealed that Kos, prior to his admission to the seminary, had served a year in a juvenile detention center for molesting a neighbor. Further, his ex-wife told a marriage tribunal official in a written deposition that Kos was sexually interested in boys. And finally, the plaintiffs pointed to a series of warnings and complaints from other priests about Kos' activities with boys throughout the late 1980s.
Boys began spending the night in Kos' rectory room in 1978, when he was given his first assistant pastor placement. By 1981, a complaint was filed with church officials that Kos was sexually aggressive toward other seminarians.
Another priest filed repeated complaints in 1985 and 1986 to top church
officials about boys spending the night with Kos, and parishioners and
another pastor brought later complaints.
Diocesan officials have stated that they could not have mounted a full-scale investigation without a direct complaint from a victim.
Kos ultimately was free to do as he pleased until 1992 when the first youth complained to Catholic officials. Kos was suspended from his priestly duties and sent to Jemez Springs, a church-run treatment "resort" for pedophiles in New Mexico.
The first lawsuit against Kos and the diocese was filed in 1993. The priest was indicted in 1996 on one criminal count of indecency with a child and on a count of sexual contact with a child. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
As Kos' reported abuse came to light more victims came forward with similar claims of abuse. Ten young men and the family of Jay Lemberger joined forces and filed the civil suit which sought $146.5 million in actual and punitive damages.
In a news conference after the verdict, plaintiff Shawn Johnson, 29, of Plano, said, "I hope now the victims around the world will obtain the courage and strength to come forward. We know the shame, guilt and embarrassment. But know this as well: You are not alone."
Diocese attorney Randal Mathis has vowed to appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court. On a recent edition of CNN's Larry King Live, Mathis stated the diocese would appeal the verdict as well as the amount of the verdict largely because the trial was against the church and not Kos.
If appeals proceed as promised and the judgment is upheld, interest could push the total to about $200 million over the next three to five years, according to newspaper reports. The award already stands to earn interest at 10 percent a year for the four years the first lawsuit was filed.
The diocese has enough liability insurance to cover the award, said plaintiffs' attorney Demarest. But it is not clear how much good the policies will provide since insurers have been refusing to pay for clergy abuse, arguing that church leaders knew which priests posed a risk to children, yet failed to remove them.
[Sources: Dallas Morning News 7/13-25/97; New York Times 7/18/97; Los Angeles Times 7/25/97; Reuters 8/8/97; Associated Press 8/9/97; San Antonio Express News 8/9/97; Corpus Christi Caller-Times 8/9/97; Larry King Live 8/11/97]
To Do Nothing Is Not a Solution
by Jim Holman
CHRONOLOGY OF RUDY KOS COURT CASE
While it is unclear why he came to San Diego, Kos is due back in Dallas for a September 15 hearing on further criminal charges. The following is a chronology of courtroom proceedings in the Kos trial.
May 23, 1993 -- First lawsuit against the Dallas Catholic Diocese is filed.
May 2, 1997 -- Jury selection begins from a pool of more than 800 candidates.
May 15, 1997 -- Trial begins before State Court Judge Anne Ashby in Dallas. "The evidence will show the diocese followed a don't-ask-and-don't-tell policy," said plaintiff's attorney Windle Turley. "(They said) We don't want to know because to know will bring scandal on the church. The church hate scandal worse than anything. We will do anything to avoid scandal."
An attorney for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas countered that officials suspended Fr. Kos in 1992 as soon as they heard the allegations of sexual abuse. They argued the diocese should not be liable for his conduct.
"This was tricky manipulation by a smart sociopath," Randal Mathis said in his opening statement as Bishop Charles Grahmann and Monsignor Duffy Gardner sat next to him. "The whole concept of child sexual abuse flies in the face of everything this diocese stands for."
May 16, 1997 -- Testimony in the case begins with Kos' two younger brothers who said he repeatedly abused them. Appearing by videotape, the brothers said they would have told church officials that Kos was unfit to be a priest if they had been asked. They said he repeatedly abused them sexually when he was a teenager and spent a year in a juvenile detention facility for abusing a neighbor.
Testimony of Kathleene Hetzel Winkler, Kos' ex-wife, was read to the jury. In it, she said she met Kos in the fifth grade and lived with him only about six months after their marriage in 1966. She said they never consummated the marriage.
Ms. Winkler also testified she told church officials Kos was gay and had a problem with boys during an interview needed to annul the marriage.
May 20, 1997 -- The first of 10 plaintiffs testified he as abused as many as 500 times by Father Kos. "He raped me spiritually and murdered my soul," the 28-year-old computer programmer testified. "I seem to be reliving this in more and more detail every day and it is difficult."
May 21, 1997 -- A psychiatrist that examined Father Kos testified that he was a sexual opportunist who should have been kept away from children.
Dr. Jay Feierman worked at the New Mexico treatment center where Kos was sent for 14 months starting in 1992. "People like that should no longer have access to children -- period," Dr. Feierman said. "If they had confirmed observations that this person is a pied piper with kids following him around that in itself is a reason for concern."
“The 2000-year-old rule of the church is don't ask, don't tell."
May 22, 1997 -- A second plaintiff testified he was abused by Father
Kos in the rectory of
May 23, 1997 -- Father Kos's superior at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Irving testified that he kept a detailed log of the comings and goings of young boys at Kos's room in the rectory. Father Daniel Clayton told the jury he sent the log to Monsignor Robert Rehkemper, who was then the No. 2 official in the diocese. Also, a psychiatrist that examined one of the young men testified he will need more than a decade of intensive therapy to prevent him from committing suicide for problems related to the abuse.
May 27, 1997 -- A 1986 letter from Father Clayton showed he warned church officials that Kos was spending too much time with young boys. The letter, sent to Bishop Thomas Tschoepe six years before Kos was suspended, warned that something should be done. "I will not play psychologist, but I feel anxious about the situation," Clayton wrote. "My instincts tell me to do nothing is not a solution."
May 28, 1997 -- A young man abused by Father Kos testified that the suspended priest called him several times from a New Mexico pedophile treatment facility. The man said Kos told him the diocese had sent him there for stress treatment. Also, Father Robert Williams, the associate pastor at St. John's, testified that he was alarmed from the first day Kos arrived at the church about the amount of time he spent with boys. He also testified he saw Kos in his rectory bed with a boy in his room.
May 29, 1997 -- A Catholic committee on sexual abuse decided not to tell parishioners that Father Kos had been sent to a New Mexico pedophile treatment facility. Instead, church officials read parishioners a letter that said Kos had voluntarily resigned to seek treatment for stress.
Father Robert Williams, an assistant at St. John's who read a letter prepared by the diocese about Kos to parishioners, testified he was angry that he and parishioners were not told the truth about why Kos left.
"The diocese asked you to read the parish a lie?" Windle Turley asked Father Williams."Yes," he replied.
May 30, 1997 -- Judge Anne Ashby threatened to hold Monsignor Robert Rehkemper in contempt of court for refusing to directly answer questions about his supervision of Father Kos. Rehkemper, the No. 2 official in the Diocese, was warned by the judge about being "defiant" and was instructed to speak with his attorney outside of the court about the ramifications of failing to answer questions. Rehkemper later testified he had first met with a priest concerned about Kos' behavior with boys in 1986, seven years before the first youth complained. Rehkemper testified the diocese took no actions against Kos because there was no proof that abuse had actually occurred.
July 21, 1997 -- Closing arguments in the case are given. The jury begins deliberations.
July 24, 1997 -- Jury returns verdict and finds that the diocese is liable for gross neglect. It awards damages of more than a million dollars for each plaintiff.
Buggery in Church
By William F. Buckley, Jr.
NEW YORK, AUGUST 1
I rode in a car for an hour with an FBI agent, a man in his late thirties, trained as a lawyer, and he spoke (we were en route to a distant airport) of his profession, which included recruitment. ``There are so many people who want to join the Bureau we don't have to go scouting for them. But when they do apply, it takes six or seven months before they're checked out.'' The final barrier is a truth test. The applicant is wired up to the polygraph and asked, in sequence, ``Have you in your life smoked marijuana more than 15 times?'' And then, ``Have you smoked it in the last three years?'' Fifty per cent of the applicants either plead guilty or else lie; in either case, they are dismissed.
The news items on priests and child abuse all but paralyze one's sensibilities: How can such a thing be? . . . In Ireland, a seventy-year-old who abused boys for over thirty years. In Canada, a similar, if less protracted, case. Most highly publicized is the Fr. Rudy Kos affair in Dallas, remarkable for several reasons.
The first is that the jury awarded the 11 plaintiffs the sum of $120 million. The second, that there was considerable exploration, during the nine-week trial, of the circumstances of the crime, and a marked division among parishioners about how the bishop had handled the situation. He was manifestly horrified and apologetic, but onlookers were not all of them satisfied that sufficient care had been taken. The lawyer for the diocese told the jury that everything had been done to determine whether the offender was a pedophile but that the diocese had been duped. To that, plaintiff lawyer Sylvia Demarest replied, ``The lives of children cannot continue to be sacrificed so the bishop of the Diocese of Dallas can continue to conceal the perversions of the priests of the diocese.'' The reference was to other priests also charged with pedophilia. Another plaintiff lawyer said that out of seven candidates admitted to Catholic seminary in Dallas in 1980, three (including Kos) later were involved in pedophilia charges.
One pauses to meditate on the bitter affront to decency. The montage is gruesomely perfected -- as if painted by Hieronymus Bosch -- by the knowledge that the plaintiffs were serving, when abused, as altar boys. The debasement invokes the words of Christ, that for those who offend little children it would have been better that they had not been born. But the same Christ enjoined forgiveness, after genuine repentance. The criminal penalty should be severe and unrelenting, but if contrition is true, the priests wearing prison garb should be welcome at the altar.
The civil award is the obligation of the diocese. One hundred twenty million dollars, added to the pain of the sacrilege, and the hurt and contempt engendered by the crime. One reporter on the scene predicts that many Catholics will simply refuse to contribute money to help pay the judgment, a gesture of disgust over the maladministration of the bishop. One wonders, in respect of that bishop in Dallas, and the two bishops in Ireland and Canada, whether a public mortification isn't appropriate. Resignation, or at least withdrawal from the diocese, or at least a leave of absence of several years in a monastery, a sign of pain felt, and sacrifice merited.
Most directly needed, clearly, is a sharp revision of supervisory practices. Psychologists tell us that pedophilia is the most persistent of all sexual deviations. The data (or so I am advised) tell of the recurrence of the crime even after terms spent in jail.
Crank up the polygraph, FBI style, and then ask the postulant: ``Have you ever, with sexual motive, fondled a boy?'' Or, perhaps more advisedly, to guard against the risk of transforming a 13-year-old crush into lifelong disqualification, ``Have you fondled a boy at any time since reaching 16?''
But most important is to remember to detach the sinner from the faith.
On that subject, Fr. Andrew Greeley once wrote, ``The question is not
whether the Catholic leadership is enlightened but whether Catholicism
is true. A whole College of Cardinals filled with psychopathic tyrants
provides no answer one way or another to that question.'' And then a killer
of a closing line: ``Search for the perfect church if you will; when you
find it, join it, and realize that on that day it becomes something less
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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