Priest to Face Closer Scrutiny
Archdiocese Will Investigate Sex Case

By Joann Klimkiewicz and Maryellen Fillo
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
January 3, 2003

In an about-face from its response in the days following the arrest of the Rev. Roman Kramek on sexual assault charges, the Archdiocese of Hartford said Thursday it will investigate the case against the visiting Polish priest who came to serve at Sacred Heart Church.

The archdiocese also said it would look into a newspaper report that the church's longtime priest, the Rev. Paul Wysocki, called the teen victim of the sexual assault a "tramp."

Wysocki also was quoted in the newspaper, The Herald, this week as saying "people looking for money" were behind the incident.

Jonathan Cooper, executive editor of The Herald and the person who interviewed Wysocki, said he stands by the accuracy of his report. He said the priest did not elaborate on the meaning of his brief remarks.

Wysocki declined Thursday to comment on the published remarks.

"I don't know whether he said them or didn't," said the Rev. John Gatzak, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "If he did, it was certainly an insensitive response." The comments "are certainly not called for in this instance," Gatzak said.

The 40-year-old Kramek, a 12-year priest on leave from his parish in northern Poland, was arrested Christmas Eve. He is charged with having sex with a 17-year-old girl at her home on Dec. 18, when he was supposed to be counseling her for emotional problems triggered by a rape the month before.

Last week, the archdiocese said it would help however it could in the incident's aftermath, but stopped short of launching an investigation.

Wysocki usually gets a priest from Poland to help during Christmastime and Easter -- the busiest seasons for the largely Polish, 3,000-family church. Since the program was devised by Sacred Heart, the archdiocese had said, it would be up to the church to make any changes to it.

On Thursday, Gatzak said the archdiocese would take what action is necessary once its investigation is completed. He said he did not know who would investigate or how, but said, "I'm sure the archdiocese will do what they need to do."

As for the comments attributed to Wysocki, Gatzak added, "He's the one who allegedly said what he said and could best explain to all of us what he meant."

But a woman at the church's rectory said the priest has said all he will on the matter for now.

And that leaves many angry.

"His comments just further prove the point about long-standing attitudes that girls or women are blamed in sexual assaults, but boys or men are not," said Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis psychologist.

Schoener said Wysocki's long tenure and the old-world tone of Sacred Heart Church and its primarily Polish congregation could be part of the reason Wysocki may have made such an insensitive remark -- particularly in a time that calls for more awareness and honesty.

"When you are in that kind of power or control, you feel no need to change your views," Schoener said Thursday. "But given what is going on in the church, this priest should have had time to prepare for handling such a situation, but chose not to."

On Broad Street, where the 180-year-old church stands amid a tight-knit Polish community, folks are talking of the incident and of Wysocki's alleged remarks.

While some stand by the priest and question if he was quoted accurately, others have little doubt that he was.

Agnes Chmielewski, who grew up attending Sacred Heart, said Wysocki's remarks are unacceptable.

"He was out of line to say that," Chmielewski said. "And for a priest to say that? What kind of example does that set? ... He just had no right. ... We don't know the whole story yet."

She said some in the community are suggesting that it's time for the priest to step down.

Kramek is jailed, unable to post $500,000 bail, and is due back in New Britain Superior Court Jan. 30.


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