Archdiocese Admits Liablity for Abuse by 'Polka Padre'
Jury Weighs Damages

By Margaret Zack
Star Tribune
March 20, 1996

A 38-year-old man who was abused by a priest 21 years ago has suffered emotional turmoil since the incident and will for rest of his life, his attorney told a Hennepin County District Court Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has admitted that the Rev. Robert Kapoun, a popular priest known as the "Polka Padre," abused Mark Schutz. The only issue for the jury to decide is how much money to award to Schutz.

Schutz grew up in a Catholic household where he was taught to respect priests, his attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, said in his opening statement Tuesday.

"Mark Schutz will tell you the church, God, this priest were the most important aspects of [his life]," Anderson said.

Schutz's family invited Kapoun, who was priest at St. Raphael's Church in Crystal when the abuse occurred, into their home and trusted him. Kapoun used that trust to abuse him, Anderson said.

Schutz was sexually innocent at the time and suffered in secrecy and shame until 1992 when he heard two men in Minneapolis say at a news conference that they were victims of clergy abuse, Anderson said.

"He realized for the first time how and why his life was such a mess," he said.

Dan Haas, the attorney representing the archdiocese, told the jury in his opening statement that the church has accepted responsibility for its handling of Kapoun. But, he said it should not be responsible for damages caused by Schutz's actions.

"He's not taking responsibility for any of his problems," Haas said. "He blames Kapoun for all of them."

Kapoun is not a defendant in this portion of the lawsuit.

Anderson said Schutz, a welder from Champlin, suffers depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress. He said Schutz has drifted into different jobs and could only watch while his first marriage crumbled.

Last month, a Hennepin County jury awarded Dale Scheffler, of Prior Lake, $ 550,000 in actual damages and $ 600,000 in punitive damages for abuse by Kapoun. He was 13 when Kapoun molested him in 1981.

Retired Archbishop John Roach testified at Scheffler's trial that mistakes were made in how priests accused of abuse were treated.

Kapoun, a priest since 1964, resigned last month from three parishes he was serving near New Prague.

The trial, before Judge Gary Larson, is expected to last about a week.


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