Mother Says Church Ignored Girl's Sex Abuse
By Ed Housewright
Dallas Morning News
June 27, 1997
The mother of a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually abused by a priest in the early 1980s testified Thursday that church officials never reported the abuse to police and quietly transferred the priest to another church.
The woman testified about former priest William Hughes during the civil trial of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas and former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, who is accused of molesting altar boys from 1981 to 1992.
Plaintiffs' attorneys in the Kos case called the woman to testify, saying that her experience indicated a pattern of sexual-abuse coverup by church officials.
The attorney for the diocese denied that the girl's case involved any coverup and said it was handled appropriately.
"We trusted this young man [Mr. Hughes] and had no idea he was molesting our daughter," said the woman, who said the abuse went on for about a year.
She said she discovered the abuse in 1984 after finding more than 100 letters from Mr. Hughes in her daughter's room. Mr. Hughes had come to St. Luke's Catholic Church in Irving as assistant pastor two years earlier.
"We were in a state of shock," said the woman, whose daughter has a lawsuit pending against Mr. Hughes and the diocese. "He was part of the family. He was like a son."
She later learned that Mr. Hughes had picked up her daughter numerous times at home after she and her husband were asleep and taken her to his rectory room, returning her before morning. Mr. Hughes, 26, promised to marry the girl when she turned 18, the woman testified.
She said she met with Thomas Tschoepe, who was then bishop, and Robert Rehkemper, who was then vicar general, the No. 2 official in the diocese. But she said the officials were unresponsive to her concerns, didn't offer to pay for counseling for her daughter and didn't tell her she could file criminal charges.
"The first thing Monsignor Rehkemper said was, 'All girls have crushes on parish priests,' " the woman testified. "I said, 'It's more than a crush. A priest molested my 13-year-old girl ' "
Monsignor Rehkemper has played a prominent role in the Kos trial, now in its seventh week. State District Judge Anne Ashby threatened to hold him in contempt of court last month for refusing to directly answer questions about his supervision of Mr. Kos.
The 11 plaintiffs in the Kos case are seeking $146.5 million from the diocese and Mr. Kos. He has already been found liable for the abuse because he hasn't responded to the lawsuits.
The diocese maintains that it should not be held liable for Mr. Kos' conduct.
On Thursday, the woman testified that Mr. Hughes was transferred to St. Patrick's Catholic Church in northeast Dallas in 1984 after she alerted church officials to the abuse, which she said Mr. Hughes acknowledged when she confronted him. But she said she learned later that neither the pastor of St. Luke's nor the pastor of St. Patrick's were told why Mr. Hughes was being transferred.
Mr. Hughes later was appointed to the diocese's clergy personnel board and left the priesthood voluntarily in 1992.
Randal Mathis, the diocese's attorney, said it was "appropriate" for Mr. Hughes not to be fired in 1984 when the abuse allegations arose but would not elaborate because the suit against him is pending.
He pointed out that the girl who was abused filed her suit against Mr. Hughes and the diocese in 1994, 10 years after the abuse was discovered. The woman is now 27 years old.
"You're a little surprised when someone 10 years later comes back and files such a lawsuit," Mr. Mathis said.
The mother said she and her husband and five children became close friends with Mr. Hughes as soon as he came to St. Luke's shortly after graduating from the seminary.
She gave Mr. Hughes a key to the family's house, and he accompanied them on several trips.
She said her daughter's personality changed dramatically after she became involved with Mr. Hughes.
"She was a wonderful, special child," the woman said. "But she became very secretive. She became hateful to us. She would lock herself in her room. Her grades went down. We had no idea what it was." She said her husband, a convert to Catholicism, expressed concerns about the contact between Mr. Hughes and their daughter.
But she said she persuaded him that a priest wouldn't do anything inappropriate.
"Priests were on a pedestal," the woman testified.
As soon as she discovered the love letters, she said, she called an official she knew at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving.
He met with her and took all the letters, which she said filled two grocery sacks. She has never seen them again and doesn't know if he told other church officials.
In 1990, when Charles Grahmann became bishop, she met with him but said he too was unresponsive.
"We gave up," the woman said. "The letters were gone. We had nothing except a child who was very confused and upset." Earlier Thursday, Mr. Mathis questioned a psychiatrist who examined most of the plaintiffs in the Kos case about the amount of therapy he recommends for them. For some, he has suggested more than 2,000 sessions at a cost of up to $280,000.
Mr. Mathis said other doctors recommended no more than 350 sessions at a cost of no more than $40,000.
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