Jesuit Prep grad sues Dallas school saying former president molested him as a teen

By Jennifer Emily
Dallas Morning News
August 27, 2019

The Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas, Friday, December 7, 2018.
Photo by Tom Fox

Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas
Photo by Tom Fox

Dallas police officials cart out boxes from a raid on the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on May 15.
Photo by Tom Fox

A 1983 graduate says in a lawsuit that priest Patrick Koch sexually abused him when he was a student at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.

A graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas filed a lawsuit Monday against the school and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, saying he was sexually abused by a priest and former school president on the church's “credibly accused” list while he was a student.

The lawsuit filed in Dallas County civil court alleges that the church, the school and the Jesuit order failed to protect the student, now 54, allowing the abuse by the Rev. Patrick Koch to occur and then covering it up.

The Dallas Morning News generally does not name people who may have been victims of sexual abuse. The accuser is identified with a pseudonym in the lawsuit.

"Patrick Koch was the sexual abuser, but he did not and could not have acted alone. He was in the position to abuse John Doe because of the actions of the defendants in this case and their cover-up of the dangers at the school, the danger of Patrick Koch and the systemic crisis," the lawsuit says. Jesuit "created and fostered a community where abuse would occur and the school did nothing to prevent the problem despite its obviousness."

The sexual abuse began when the victim was a sophomore, he told The News in an interview, and the emotional, psychological and physical toll continues to this day.

Koch, who died in 2006 at the age of 78, was included on a list the Dallas Diocese released in January of 31 priests who were "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children. He never faced criminal charges in the sex scandal and is not included in a similar list released by the Jesuits in December.

A spokeswoman said the diocese had not had a chance to thoroughly review the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided by The News.

"The diocese continues to urge anyone who has been the victim of abuse by a priest to come forward," she said. "The list of priests with credible allegations was part of that process. The Diocese of Dallas takes every claim of abuse very seriously."

Jesuit President Michael A. Earsing declined in a written statement to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

"We have not yet seen the lawsuit or been served with it," he said. "... We continue to extend our compassion and support for all victims of sexual misconduct and abuse."

Koch's family has filed a canon law appeal to the church over the inclusion of his name on the list of credibly accused priests. The status of the appeal wasn't immediately known.

In January, Earsing wrote a letter to the "friends of Jesuit" about Koch's inclusion on the Dallas Diocese list.

"It is with great dismay to see the appearance on the list of Father Patrick H. Koch, S.J. A 1944 graduate of Jesuit, Fr. Koch later served as principal (1972-79), president (1979-80), and director of alumni (1980-86)," Earsing wrote. "He remained a part of the Jesuit community until his death in 2006. Please know that our administration will seek spiritual guidance as we further consider the school's response to this news."

The man who alleged the abuse told The News that Koch's public persona couldn't have been more different from the one he got to know before graduating from Jesuit in 1983.

"He was Jesuit. He was the face of Jesuit. He was revered," the man said, sitting next to his wife in a conference room at his attorneys' office. "If you did not know about this other side, then you knew him to be the nicest, and people will say, one of the most Christ-like guys there was."

He said the abuse led to suicidal thoughts, poor grades, a decades-long crisis of faith, difficulties with trust and long-term relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The lawsuit, which wasn't publicly available until Tuesday, doesn't ask for a specific dollar amount.

'Get comfortable'

While at Jesuit, the man worked at the school in exchange for financial aid. He said he worried that telling anyone something happened could ruin his education and burden his family. His parents and siblings attended St. Rita Catholic Church and were always devoted Catholics, he said. Before the abuse, he said, he got good grades and had big ambitions.

As part of a program that helped pay his tuition, he answered phones on the school's switchboard from 3 to 6 p.m. and then in the priests' residence until 9 p.m. He said he noticed current and former students coming to meet the priests after school hours, which he thought at the time was odd.

One day, during his sophomore year, he was pulled out of class to meet with Koch. The priest had served as the president of the school but was a counselor at the time, he said. The man said Koch was still working out of the president's office when they met.

Koch turned out the lights and told him to “get comfortable,” the man said. “‘In fact,’” the man recalled the priest saying, “‘we’re going to sit on the floor for a little bit.’”  The priest sat down on the floor and crossed his legs. The man said he did the same.

“He scooted closer," the man said. "We were basically kneecap to kneecap."

The priest reached out his hands and "for compliance sake, I put my hands in his hands," the man said. Then, the man said, the priest told him to close his eyes and count backward from 10.

"I felt this wet kiss right on my lips," the man recalled. "I recoiled and just kind of looked at him."

He said Koch told him everything was OK.

"It's at that point where I don't recall what happened after that," he said. "I don't recall leaving the office. I don't really recall anything throughout the rest of the course of that school day."

Recovered memories

He suppressed memories of the abuse, though he always knew "something" happened, his attorneys Charla Aldous and Brent Walker said. But he couldn't recall exactly what.

He told The News that he began to recover memories late last year after the Dallas Diocese said it would release a list of accused priests and Jesuit released a similar list that did not include Koch. The man said he was angered by Jesuit's omission.

His anger grew when he saw Koch's picture on television in January when he was named by the Dallas Diocese as a "credibly accused" priest. Koch was also named the same day by the Corpus Christi Diocese, the lawsuit says.

He previously hadn't told his psychiatrist about the abuse because, he said, he didn't realize there was anything to tell. The man said he still doesn't remember everything that happened. He isn't sure whether he will.

The man says he was small for his age and he believes that is what made him a target.

After he was abused by Koch, he said, he began hanging out with the wrong crowd, his grades suffered and he experimented with drugs. He dreaded going to school. The man recalled vomiting in the shower every day before school.

His relationship with his parents suffered. Although he went to college, he dropped out and never earned a degree. Today, he lives in Tarrant County and works in operations in a healthcare-related field.

Other accusations

This isn't the first lawsuit filed against Jesuit this year about allegations of abuse by a priest. In March, another lawsuit was filed by another former Jesuit student. That suit says Donald Dickerson, a former Jesuit priest, sexually assaulted the student in the late 1970s. Dickerson was removed from the Jesuit order in 1986 and died in 2018.

Dallas police raided the Dallas Catholic Diocese offices in May after a detective said church officials "thwarted" his investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by its priests. Dallas police Detective David Clark wrote in a search warrant that the diocese hid past allegations, turned over incomplete records and blocked attempts by officers to determine whether accusers' claims were fully examined.

Details of any sexual abuse allegations contained in the documents that were seized by Dallas police have not been made public. It is unclear if any of the documents relate to accusations against Koch or any other priest at Jesuit.



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