THE Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles is being sued by a woman who alleges that it allowed a priest to continue to minister in a parish despite knowing that he faced multiple accusations of sexual assault.
The litigant, Patricia Harner, has accused the Revd Paul Kowalewski of sexually assaulting her in 1971, when she was a 19-year-old parishioner at St Amelia’s RC Church, in Tonawanda, New York State, and he was a seminarian preparing to be ordained in the RC diocese of Buffalo.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr Kowalewski was sent to a treatment centre “in response to his abuse of children” while serving as a priest between 1973 and 1977.
Mr Kowalewski was received into the Episcopal Church in 1990. Now retired, he had been serving as a priest at St Paul in the Desert, Palm Springs, in California. He has now been suspended.Both the diocese of Central New York and the diocese of San Diego, where Mr Kowaleswski has been licensed, say that they conducted thorough background checks in advance of his appointments.
“The diocese of Los Angeles views each and every allegation of sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” the Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Revd John Harvey Taylor, said in a statement in response to the lawsuit. “The Revd Paul Kowalewski is not currently serving in our diocese. Nevertheless, once we have had the opportunity to review the details of this matter, we will take whatever appropriate steps we can to make sure that a fair and just outcome is achieved for all parties.”
The Bishop of San Diego, the Rt Revd Susan Brown Snook, said that her diocese was “deeply shocked and saddened by any allegations of sexual abuse”, and has written a letter to the parishioners of St Paul’s explaining the situation.
“Everyone who has been affected by this sad and shocking situation is in my prayers, and I hope for a just resolution to the lawsuit,” she said.