Popular Fall River Priest Quits after Sex Allegation

By Jessica Heslam
Boston Herald
March 21, 2002

In yet another sex allegation, a popular Fall River priest resigned last week after a woman claimed he molested her when she was underage in the mid-1960s.

"He's been a wonderful priest - so holy. What a shock," an 84-year-old churchgoer said yesterday of the Rev. Robert S. Kaszynski of St. Stanislaus Parish, where he had been for 40 years.

The 68-year-old Kaszynski, or "Father K," as he was called, abruptly resigned Friday when he was notified of the accusation. The woman claimed he sexually abused her on one occassion in the mid '60s, church officials said.

"It involves a single incident with a single person. She was a minor when the alleged abuse took place," said John Kearns, a spokesman for the Fall River Diocese.

Authorities did not release details of the alleged sexual abuse, and Kearns said he did not know whether the victim was a parish member or had attended St. Stanislaus School, which is pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.

The office of Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. has been notified of the allegation and is investigating the claim. There are no charges pending against Kaszynski.

"We were notified about it and we're looking into it," Assistant District Attorney Walter Shea said.

On Tuesday, Bishop Sean O'Malley sent a letter to parishioners and students' parents informing them of the allegation.

"My primary concern is for anyone who has suffered because of the actions of this priest of the diocese. I offer my profound apology and my support. We can only imagine the pain and sense of betrayal caused by clerical sexual abuse," O'Malley wrote.

O'Malley asked people to pray for Kaszynski.

"This tragedy ends the career of a priest who has served your parish effectively for many years. It was with a profound sense of the dimensions of this tragedy that I accepted his resignation," O'Malley wrote.

Kaszynski came to the largely Polish parish in 1962, serving as an assistant before becoming pastor a few years later. He was instrumental in rebuilding the church when it was torn down in the early 1990s after a fire.

Longtime parishioner Johnny Rybka said Kaszynski came from St. Patrick's Church in Fall River.

"I have nothing bad to say against him. He's very good with the children. For 40 years there were no complaints. It's hard to believe," said Rybka, whose two daughters attended the school in the '60s.

Many parishioners and parents yesterday rallied behind the beloved Kaszynski, who could not be reached for comment.

"It's terrible that he's being accused. There's no finer man than Father K. I think somebody is out for the money," Terry Dzialo said as she waited for her granddaughter outside the parish school.

Dzialo, whose grandchildren all attended the school, said her two oldest grandsons were devastated by the allegation.

"They said no way did that ever happen. He never, never acted inappropriately around the children," Dzialo said.

Kearns, who has known Kaszynski for 17 years, said he made yearly pilgrimages to Poland and did a lot of missions.

"Personally, I was stunned. He's got an exemplary reputation and seems to be able to reach out to any person of any age," Kearns said.

Lynn Amaral, who has taught at St. Stanislaus School for 12 years, said many students have asked if "Father K" is coming back.

"It came as quite a blow. I know that he's a loving man and he wouldn't hurt anybody," he said.

The Fall River diocese has been held up as a model for handling abuse allegations after the molestation scandal surrounding defrocked priest James R. Porter, who was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison in 1993 for molesting 28 children.


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