Woman Files Suit under New Law, Alleges Abuse by Priest in 1960s

By Michael Stetz and Sandi Dolbee
San Diego Union-Tribune
December 7, 2002

Sandy Graves has long sought her day in court. She finally may get it.

The Oceanside woman filed suit yesterday against a deceased priest and the San Diego and San Bernardino Roman Catholic dioceses, claiming the priest abused her decades ago in Fontana. The suit was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

For years, Graves has publicly maintained she suffered from abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. In the early 1990s, she started a support group in San Diego County for people who said they suffered such abuse.

"What do they say? Good things come to those who wait," Graves said yesterday.

Graves, 49, filed a similar suit in the early 1990s, but it was dismissed because of the statute of limitations, she said.

A new law, however, is allowing alleged victims of sexual abuse a greater window to sue third parties, such as the church.

The suit claims Graves was sexually abused when attending elementary school at St. Joseph's Academy in Fontana.

While the defendants are not named in the court filing, Graves' attorney, Raymond Boucher of Los Angeles, said they include the two dioceses and the Rev. Adalbert Kowalczyk, who is now deceased.

Fontana was part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego in the 1960s when the alleged abuse occurred. The Diocese of San Bernardino was established in 1978.

A spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese confirmed yesterday that Kowalczyk was at Resurrection parish in Fontana at the time and that he died in 1972. Officials from the San Bernardino and San Diego dioceses would not comment on the lawsuit because they had not seen it.

This is the fourth lawsuit filed in recent months involving the San Diego diocese and alleging clergy sexual abuse. It is also San Bernardino's fourth.

"I think we have to be concerned about these lawsuits," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese. "They are very painful for the victims and for our church."

The latest court filing comes as Catholic bishops across California are warning parishioners to brace for more lawsuits in 2003, when the new state law will lift the statute of limitations for a year, permitting civil lawsuits to be filed in sexual abuse cases involving minors.


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