Magazine article The Christian Century

Huge Cash Penalty in Priest Abuse Case

Magazine article The Christian Century

Huge Cash Penalty in Priest Abuse Case

Article excerpt

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas was ordered July 24 to pay $119.6 million in damages for covering up for an ex-priest accused of sexually molesting altar boys. The verdict is reportedly the largest cash penalty ever in a priest molestation case. In the wake of the verdict Dallas's Bishop Charles Grahmann publicly apologized to those involved. But the ten surviving victims -- one committed suicide five years ago -- boycotted the July 27 worship service at which Grahmann offered his apology.

Rudolph Kos and the Dallas diocese were sued by the ten men and the family of the suicide victim. The church suspended Kos from the priesthood five years ago. "I hope that tonight when I go to bed, I can feel safe in my heart that one less person will be abused," said Robert Hultz, one of Kos's accusers. "That next year, this will not happen again. That throughout the country, this will set the standard for what needs to be done."

The jury concluded that the diocese had hid information in its handling of sexual-abuse complaints against Kos and was grossly negligent. Church officials denied that the diocese was negligent, but did not dispute the molestation charges. Kos, who now lives in San Diego and was not at the trial, still faces criminal charges of sexual abuse of two of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claimed they were molested between 1977 and 1992 while Kos was at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas and was assigned to three Texas parishes. Church officials said they would probably appeal the verdict.

After final arguments were heard and the jurors were dismissed July 21, the judge in the case took the unusual step of removing her judicial robe and speaking to the plaintiffs. "I've been so close to your tragedy it just breaks my heart," District Judge Anne Ashby told them. "Everybody in the courtroom has been grieving. If anything like this can ever be positive, then let there be healing and let there be hope." Said Sylvia Demares, the plaintiffs' attorney: "I hope they wake up the pope tonight with this. This verdict sends a clear message to the Catholic hierarchy of the world that this abuse must stop."

In his remarks July 27 Bishop Grahmann said, "I feel the pain that has been part of [the men's] fives over these years. I can only beg them to accept my word. …

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