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The Kos Files

It was a long and painful story, but it has reached an ending at last. The story does not stop there, of course, but for the victims, their families, and even Rudy Kos himself, a resolution has been reached. Here are some of the stories the Missing Link has published that dealt with the Kos case.

Former priest and convicted perpetrator
Rudolph "Rudy" Kos


Bankruptcy Avoided by $23 Million Settlement Agreement

DALLAS -- The Diocese of Dallas has agreed to pay $23 million to eight former alter boys who were sexually abused for years by ex-priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos.

The agreement closes one of the most sordid, difficult chapters in the clergy sexual abuse crisis. One of the victims committed suicide, the perpetrator is behind bars and stripped of his clerical dignity, and the Diocese now has no choice but to sell many of its assets to finance the settlement.

The total payment is much smaller than the $119 million that a Dallas jury ordered the diocese to pay the victims in a verdict rendered last year. After church officials insisted that the sum would plunge them into bankruptcy, both sides agreed to negotiate a smaller settlement. Lawyers for the victims said they were satisfied. 7/11

Defrocked At Last

VATICAN CITY -- Rudolph "Rudy" Kos is no longer a Roman Catholic priest, and the convicted pedophile can no longer be involved in Catholic Church ministry of any kind, the Vatican has decided.

Acting on a request from the Diocese of Dallas, Rome has taken the rare step of returning Kos to lay status. The action cannot be reversed, and Kos has no course of appeal according to experts in canon law.

The Vatican's action prohibits Kos from being called "father" or "reverend" though he can remain a Catholic. It also conveniently relieves the Dallas Diocese of financial responsibility for Kos if he is ever released from prison. 7/9

Sentenced to Life in Prison

DALLAS -- Suspended priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos has been sentenced to the maximum of life in prison for sexually assaulting altar boys in hundreds of attacks that earlier produced a record monetary judgment against the Dallas diocese.

Kos, 52, was convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to life imprisonment on each. The same jury also convicted him of one count of indecency with a child for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Kos was sentenced to 20-year terms on each of three other charges to which he pleaded guilty at the start of the trial. He also must pay $10,000 in fines for each of the seven counts.
Four victims told police they were molested about 1,350 times over five years.

Under parole guidelines in effect at the time the crimes were committed, Kos will be eligible to seek parole in 15 years. He could have been sentenced to probation because he has not previously been convicted of a felony.

Last year allegations against him led to a record $119.6 million civil judgment against Kos and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. Witnesses testified during an 11-week trial that Kos sexually abused boys from 1981 to 1992 at three Dallas-area churches.

Three of the plaintiffs in that case were accusers in the criminal case. Two days later, Kos said he is sorry for the crimes he has committed and hopes someday to be forgiven. "Forgiveness. That is what I ultimately will want. But, like I say, I will never get it. There is no way," he said during an interview.

"I would like for them [the public] to think of me as a human being, not perfect, tried to be, tried to be all things to all people, and in the process, things went wrong." In a two-hour interview, Kos said some of the allegations against him are true while others, he said, are vicious lies. He said he blames the Diocese of Dallas for making him a scapegoat for all of its problems and abandoning him when he most needed help.

The spokeswoman for the diocese said diocese officials are outraged and angry that Kos is "trying to point fingers somewhere else." "There is one person to blame and that's Rudy Kos," she said. "This is someone who has proven his ability to be cunning and be persuasive and say anything and do anything to satisfy his own needs ... and now he is trying to place blame elsewhere."

Kos became tearful several times when he spoke about his ostracism from the Catholic community. He cited problems in his childhood - including his parents' unhappy union and an incident of sexual abuse - as precursors to his behavior as an adult. "There are certain things about life that you can't help. You are born with certain things, and even knowing that those things are yours to carry forever, sometimes you never want to admit it," he said, referring to his homosexuality. He called himself a "wounded healer" who has become the fall guy for every molesting priest.

Much like the boys he admits to abusing, Kos said he, too, is a victim. "I have become a victim simply because my family [the diocese] has deep pockets. I had to be made out to be the worst, despicable creature in the world."

In his closing argument Wednesday, the District Attorney urged jurors not to feel sympathy for Mr. Kos. "Who cares what caused him to do this stuff? Is that going to mean you are not going to hold him responsible, accountable?" he said. "Obviously, he knew it was wrong. He is not somebody who didn't know right from wrong."

Kos said he is not a pedophile and never was. He said he suffered from a foot fetish since he was a child but is now cured. He said he told a diocese official in the late 1980s that he needed help, but he never got any. He said he did not admit in that conversation to any incident of molestation. Kos said he doesn't believe he should go free for his crimes, but he said life in prison is not the answer. "I think I have been through five years of hell already," he said. "I have lost everything, everything. I have lost my friends. I have lost self-respect. I lost my dignity. I lost everything."

Kos declined to give names of individuals, but he said some of his accusers perjured themselves. "I would like to find out why some of them were lying. I would like to know what the motive is, who put them up to it," he said, adding that all of his accusers, even those who were truthful, exaggerated the number of incidents. 4/4

Showdown in Dallas

On July 24, in the largest verdict ever of its kind, a jury here awarded nearly $120 million in damages to ten former altar boys and the family of another after finding the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas had ignored evidence for years that a priest was sexually abusing boys and then tried to cover up the scandal when victims came forward.

It is by far the largest cash penalty imposed against the Catholic Church in a sexual abuse case, though the diocese's attorney has promised to appeal "all the way to the Supreme Court."

The damages -- $102 million actual and $18 million punitive -- are to be paid by the diocese and the priest, Fr. Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, 52, who was suspended five years ago. Since Kos was an unemployed paralegal at last report, his contribution is expected to be small.

The plaintiffs had originally asked for $146.5 million. They included the parents of Jay Lernberger, a former altar boy who committed suicide 5 years ago at the age of 20. (Macabrely, Kos had accepted the unsuspecting family's invitation to deliver the homily at the funeral though they now believe him to be directly responsible for Jay's death.) His parents, Pat and Nancy, joined the suit and were awarded $20.2 million. The ten other survivors, who now range from 18 to early 30s, were each awarded between $7.4 and $13.2 million.

The jury worked out a complicated formula to split the blame between priest and diocese to determine the shares of the award that each would pay in each plaintiffs case. The diocese was judged to bear anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of the responsibility. In a 33-item questionnaire, the jury agreed that the diocese was negligent in its handling of Kos, lied about him, inflicted emotional distress on the plaintiffs and committed fraud.

When the verdict was read aloud, the young men hugged each other and their relatives with joy. Afterwards, one lawyer for the plaintiffs, Sylvia Demarest, said, "I hope they wake the pope tonight with this."

Remarkably, the jury of 10 women and 2 men also wrote a statement directed to the diocese that state district court Judge Anne Ashby read from the bench. It asked church officials to change the way they investigate child abuse by priests. "Please admit your guilt and allow these young men to get on with their lives," she read, which received a standing ovation from the plaintiffs and their families.

Previously, when the jury had been sent to deliberate after the closing final arguments, Judge Ashby made a highly unusual speech to all involved.

She removed her judicial robes, sat in the jury box and told the plaintiffs, "I've been so close to your tragedy, it just breaks my heart." To all, she said, "Everybody in this courtroom has been grieving. If anything like this can ever be positive, then let there be healing and let there be hope."

Eleven Painful Weeks

No one at the trial disputed that the abuse occurred. Kos himself did not respond to any of the allegations against him or show up in court, therefore the judge ruled that all of the accusations against him were true.

The court heard eleven tense weeks of testimony from diocesan officials, other priests, expert witnesses as well as the stories of Kos' victims.

The abuse occurred between 1977 and 1992 starting while Kos was a seminarian and continued through his assignment to 3 separate Dallas churches. He seduced boys as young as 9, using candy, video games, alcohol, sedatives and marijuana. Plaintiffs and some of their parents testified that young boys were often invited to spend the night in the rectory with Kos, who sometimes raped them after they passed out drunk. Many of them wound up with drug and alcohol problems of their own, failed relationships and ruined lives.

They testified that the abuse destroyed their faith in themselves, in authority figures and in the Church. Along with substance abuse and relationship problems, they described poor academic records, erratic employment, depression and suicidal thoughts. Most said that they'd been taught to trust and respect priests and were thus left confused and deeply ashamed by the abuse. In some cases they didn't recognize the effects for years.

The former altar boys testified that Kos was like a father to them but drew them into sexual relationships, often beginning with foot rubs. Kos was said to have a foot fetish using the feet of young boys to masturbate himself, moving on to oral and anal sex with some of his victims. All of them were abused on hundreds of occasions, one plaintiff claiming some 500 times, up to 4 times a week for 9 years starting when he was 13.

One man lived with Kos at his rectory for two years as his concubine in the mid-1980s under the ruse that the priest had legally adopted him. The arrangement was even the subject of an article in The Texas Catholic newspaper at the time.

Another testified that Kos had telephoned him regularly while under treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and that the priest abused him twice while on leave from the center.

A Questionable History

Demarest and fellow attorney for the plaintiffs Windle Turley painted a vivid picture of a "centuries-old practice of concealment." They contended that church officials fearing scandal, not only ignored warnings but also lied before and during the trial and destroyed evidence of an ongoing cover-up. In an interview, Turley said, "It appeared Rudy Kos had friends in high places who bent the rules, broke their own policies, helped him get an annulment of his marriage, rushed him into seminary, and then when all of the things started to happen, the same people turned their backs on the complaints."

They argued that a reasonable investigation by church officials at the very beginning would have revealed that the seminary applicant was unfit for the priesthood. Kos had spent a year in a juvenile detention center for molesting a young neighbor. His brothers claimed he had molested them both and would have told diocesan officials that he was unfit for the priesthood had they been asked.

To get into the seminary, Kos sought an annulment from a previous marriage on the grounds it had not been consummated. Jurors were read a deposition by his ex-wife who claimed he had married her "to make things look good. It was just a shield to make his life look normal so he could molest boys without any suspicion." She testified that she had told a diocesan official that Kos was gay and attracted to boys.

Yet, Demarest said, the marriage tribunal had not performed the steps required under canon law of inviting the woman for questioning, nor had notified her that the annulment had been granted and that she had the right to appeal.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan, now of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, then rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, conceded under grilling that Fr. Don Fischer, a top diocesan official, had pressed for acceptance of Kos despite his previous rejection by the former head of the seminary.

Msgr. Robert Rehkemper, 73, then vicar general, admitted on the stand that he had received a report of Kos' making a pass at another seminarian shortly before Kos was ordained. During his questioning by Demarest, he was threatened by Judge Ashby with contempt of court for refusing to answer questions directly.

The diocesan personnel committee also had become aware that Kos might be a pedophile. In 1985, a priest complained of Kos' habit of bringing boys to his rectory room. Two others also did the next year, including Fr. Daniel Clayton, who was so concerned that he repeatedly confronted Kos, going so far as to keep a detailed log of the boy's visits. That year Rehkemper threatened Kos with suspension if he didn't stop bringing boys to his room.
Nevertheless in 1988, Kos was promoted to pastor of St. John's in Ennis. There he restructured the youth program to eliminate women and girls. Fr. Robert Williams, the associate pastor, said he had been alarmed from his first day in the parish, had also repeatedly confronted Kos about his behavior and met several times with Rehkemper.

Finally Williams wrote a 12-page letter to Bishop Charles Grahmann in 1990, telling him, among other things, that Kos would hug young boys by rubbing them against himself "almost like they were a towel in which he was drying himself." Two years later the bishop told him that the diocese was unable to take any action against Kos because psychiatric reports had cleared him.

In 1991, yet another priest reported to Rehkemper that Kos was still bringing boys to his room, and the next year a social worker told him that Kos appeared to be "a textbook pedophile." Yet Grahmann testified he saw "no reason" to remove Kos though he did so anyway two months later after another evaluation for pedophilia at the Paracletes. However he called off a test which measures erections while the subject is shown pictures of nude children -- due to moral reservations, he said.

The previous head of the diocese during whose tenure much of the abuse happened, retired Bishop Thomas Tschoepe, 81, did not testify at the trial because he reportedly had Alzheimer's syndrome. Yet he remains on a full schedule, saying Mass 10 times a week and driving his own car.

Despite the number of complaints from fellow priests, Kos was not removed until 1992 after the threat of lawsuits. Diocesan officials contended they were unable to remove Kos or even investigate without a direct complaint from a victim. The parishioners were told he was on leave for stress.

Expert witness Fr. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer formerly with the Vatican Embassy in Washington, testified that church officials did not have to wait for a complaint from a youth. He said the church nationwide has engaged in a "pattern of secrecy" by withholding information from civil authorities and parishioners.

Egg on Their Faces

Randal Mathis, attorney for the diocese, maintained that diocesan officials had made what they "thought were appropriate, fair and reasonable judgements." He is reported as saying "We as a diocese have egg on our faces -- We are embarrassed, upset and regretful," but not negligent.

He said that there were many non-conspiratorial explanations why church officials had concealed or destroyed evidence, blaming it on otherworldly naivete and misfiling. However, Mathis denounced Kos, calling him a "very convincing man," saying, "Rudy Kos needs to be prosecuted and put in jail."

Mathis is seeking a dismissal of the judgement or at least a new trial and has also filed a motion to recuse Judge Ashby because of her displays of compassion to the plaintiffs. The day after the trial ended, he sued the insurers in state court, aiming to head off disputes about coverage. One of them countersued in federal court claiming it should not be liable due to the finding of gross negligence.

Shortly before the trial ended, Bishop Grahmann apologized publicly in a speech at a fundraiser, assuring donors that none of the contributions would go for court costs. "Sometimes we are not alert, not on guard," he admitted. He said "wolves have come in sheep's clothing and entered our midst undetected." While he received a standing ovation, many thought his comments were too little and too late.

He again attempted to apologize to the victims at a mass the Sunday after the verdict but none of them showed up. They had planned to attend Mass to show gratitude to Fr. Williams, one of the few priests who had emerged as a hero in their view. When they discovered Grahmann was going to apologize from the pulpit, they decided to stay away. As plaintiff Robert Hultz, 25, put it, "A lot of us were going to be white-knuckling it just to set foot in a church. I felt the bishop was turning it into a media event for himself."

He said he and the other plaintiffs had formed a strong bond during the trial. "Each one of shared our whole lives and our darkest memories. I will carry part of each one of them for the rest of my life," he said. He called the feeling they had after the verdict "indescribable. It was a validation the church never gave us," he said. The plaintiffs then shed their anonymity, giving names and statements to the press.

"This trial was so beneficial for these boys," Demarest said. "It was unbelievable to see them at the end, after being so embarrassed and so shameful for so long."

The diocese, however, was further embarrassed by statements made by Rehkemper who publicly shifted the blame to the victims' parents in both newspaper and radio interviews. "I don't want to judge them one way or another, but it doesn't appear they were very concerned about their kids," he told The Dallas Morning News. He said later on the radio, "There's some responsibility even among the plaintiffs, you see. They were old enough to know right from wrong.

Plaintiffs and their families were outraged by Rehkemper's remarks. Pat Lernberger said she was "infuriated," and that the vicar was in "another world."

Rehkemper has since resigned.

The Voice From The Shadows

In late May, Rudy Kos gave an interview via telephone from San Diego, where he now lives under an assumed name, to The Dallas Morning News. Speaking publicly for the first time, he said that poverty kept him from defending himself. He denied some of the charges, wouldn't discuss others and maintained he'd simply quit fighting after the church wouldn't provide him with an attorney.

"I've really been at the bottom," he complained, saying he'd lost a good job after his employer learned of the charges against him and now works freelance. Training for his new career was paid for by the Church, but he claims they since cut off aid. Since he could no longer afford mental health drugs, he suffered seizures and disorientation. "I will never forgive them for that," he said.

Kos has demanded through an ecclesiastical proceeding that the diocese resume supporting him. "They have an obligation to take care of me for life," he claimed. He argued that the promise the Church makes all priests remains in force unless they renounce their vows -- something he has not done.

He said that he knows he's lost the right to administer the sacraments and has declined to say Mass for the San Diego chapter of Dignity, an organization of gay and lesbian Catholics. But "if they asked me again," he said, "I probably would."

Kos claimed therapy has overcome his attraction to teenage boys and he now socializes only with adults. He had concluded that he was not a pedophile but that he was gay and had been repressing his homosexuality. He realized, he said, that "my attraction in that lifestyle was misplaced on people that were too young."

He said he will cross the street to avoid children yet his current residence is across the street from a Catholic church and a block away from a school. He described himself as a celibate while calling the 38-year-old man with whom he shares a one-bedroom apartment his lover.
As for the lawsuits against him, he called "absolute nonsense" the testimony that he had plied boys with booze and drugs, saying that many of them were already abusing those substances on their own. He claimed he "didn't even know" two of the plaintiffs.

Demarest termed Kos' protestations of innocence "ridiculous" and "astonishing." The one point she agreed with him on was that Kos lacked representation be-cause the church had turned its back on him.

"The bishop of Dallas didn't want him in the courtroom," she said, suggesting that Grahmann sacrificed his subordinate to deflect attention from the church's own culpability.

Turley said that other young men alleging abuse by Kos are coming forward. Some reports suggest Kos may have had as many as 50 victims.

Rudy Kos still faces criminal charges for sexual contact with one child and indecency with another. He is to be tried later this year. Since he has not yet been convicted of a sex crime, he is not required to register with the San Diego police. 7/25/97

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