Charge Stuns Priest's Polish Parish
New Britain Sex-Assault Allegation Doesn't Square with His Record

By Joann Klimkiewicz, Ken Byron and Bill Leukhardt
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
December 28, 2002

During his seven years at St. Joseph Church in northern Poland, the Rev. Roman Kramek was an eager worker, held in good regard. There was no suggestion that he would try to take advantage of anyone, much less force himself sexually on a 17-year-old girl -- as police charge he did Dec. 18 in New Britain.

Like anyone else, Kramek had his admirers, and there were some who didn't particularly care for him, said Jan Roslan, a spokesman for the church there.

But as he rose from church assistant, teaching children religion lessons, to pastor of the 800-member parish, no one accused him of any wrongdoing, Roslan said.

When the 40-year-old priest asked for a leave of absence to take a temporary position at Sacred Heart Church in New Britain, church officials in Poland obliged, sending a favorable recommendation along.

Shock spread throughout the parish community in the town of Szyleny Friday, as television newscasts in the country carried Kramek's name and image. Their priest had been accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in the United States, they heard -- a girl who had sought his counseling after she was raped last month in a taxicab.

Kramek surrendered to police on Christmas Eve at Sacred Heart, where he served for a month to help during the busy Christmas season. He is being held at the Hartford Correctional Center with bail set at $500,000.

In Poland, Kramek had recently asked for an assignment change. Roslan did not know why he made the request, but when the archbishop offered a position at another Polish church, Kramek turned it down. He asked instead for the leave of absence. The archbishop granted approval in August, Roslan said. Kramek's leave was to be for an unspecified time.

Kramek showed up in New Britain in late October or early November. The Rev. John Gatzak, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said the Rev. Paul Wysocki of Sacred Heart provided officials at the archdiocese on Nov. 7 with the necessary paperwork for Kramek to work at the church. Archbishop Daniel Cronin granted his approval on Nov. 25 for Kramek to work at Sacred Heart. Hartford archdiocese policies require that before a foreign priest can work in one of its churches, the head priest of that church must make a request to the archbishop. The bishop or archbishop from the priest's home diocese must provide a letter of recommendation. The letter must attest that, among other things, the priest has never been disciplined for behavioral problems.

Gatzak said Archbishop Glemp of the Archdiocese of Warsaw in Poland supplied such a letter. Based on that, Cronin granted Kramek's request to work in Sacred Heart.

Gatzak said Cronin's permission allowed Kramek to perform priestly duties at Sacred Heart, such as saying Mass and hearing confessions.

Wysocki, Sacred Heart's only full-time priest, said he usually gets a priest from Poland during Christmas and Easter, the busiest seasons for the 3,000-family church. Wysocki says he is stretched thin and grateful for the assistance.

Wysocki said he set up the program on his own and has contacts with church leaders in Poland. The Hartford archdiocese is not involved in the program and, except for requiring a letter of recommendation, does not oversee it, Gatzak said.

But in this case, Wysocki said, Kramek did not come to Sacred Heart through the usual process. He said his first contact with the priest was when Kramek presented himself at the church. Kramek said he was visiting relatives in New Britain and wanted to help out. Wysocki took him at his word.

Wysocki said Kramek struck him as being very secretive, often leaving the rectory where he was living without telling the staff where he was going or what he was doing.

Wysocki said that he does not know how Kramek was referred to the girl he allegedly assaulted and that he has not done any sort of internal investigation to find out.

"I just wish this episode would go away and we can get back to normal," Wysocki said. "This just upsets the apple cart."

According to police, a counselor at the church asked Kramek to provide the girl spiritual counseling about the rape. Wysocki, who does little spiritual counseling himself, said the priest did not tell him of his plans to speak to the girl and that he would not have given him permission to speak to her. If he were to provide spiritual counseling, Wysocki said, he would hold the meeting in his office and not the person's home.

"He had no business doing that," Wysocki said.

According to the arrest warrant, the police investigation started because the girl told a New Britain High School social worker on Dec. 19 about the incident. The social worker called police.

The girl said Kramek fondled and kissed her and then had intercourse with her Dec. 18 in her home while he was supposed to be helping her deal with severe emotional problems triggered by her rape, court records state.

Kramek described the act of sexual intercourse as a form of counseling intended to show the girl -- who speaks Polish -- that sex with men does not have to be bad, police said.

Church officials could not say what their next step would be. Wysocki said he has not spoken to officials in Poland and has no plans to do so.

In October, another priest visiting New Britain from abroad was found to have abused a child. The Rev. Enrique Vasquez came to St. Mary's Church from his native Costa Rica, with officials from his diocese signing a similar letter of recommendation.

But in that case, the alleged assault, against a 10-year-old boy, had taken place in Costa Rica. The charge did not surface in the letter. Only after authorities from Costa Rica contacted the Hartford archdiocese was the priest removed.

Back in Poland, church officials are waiting to see what comes of the charges against Kramek. While the accusations are shocking, Roslan noted that Kramek has not been found guilty.

In Poland, the law normally prohibits the names and faces of the accused from being published in the media. But Friday, the name Roman Kramek was being spoken by many.

Kramek's arrest is the latest heartache for the Polish Catholic church, rocked this year by clergy sex-abuse scandals that mirror some of the cases that have grabbed headlines in America. Until recently, such cases have been unheard of in Poland, one of Europe's most fervently Catholic countries.

This past March, prominent Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan resigned amid accusations he had made sexual advances to young clerics. The 67-year-old archbishop, who has close ties to Pope John Paul II, denied all allegations but said he was stepping down "for the good of the Church."

In November, a court in the central Polish city of Lodz ordered the arrest of a priest on charges he sexually abused five boys under the age of 15 when he served in a village parish south of Warsaw in 1998-99. The priest, identified only as Wincenty P., was arrested by border police when he re-entered the country from Ukraine.

Also in November, an elderly priest in the devoutly Catholic southern Polish mountain village of Dukla was charged with sexually abusing young children in his care. The priest taught catechism classes at the village school.


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