For decades, survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their advocates have urged states to let them hold abusers accountable in civil court, no matter how long it’s been since the abuse. A bipartisan bill in the Colorado Legislature to do just that so far appears to have widespread approval, but it’s not without opposition from the Colorado Catholic Conference — a church embroiled in a sex abuse scandal in Colorado, the U.S. and around the world.
There is no expiration date in Colorado to bring criminal charges against a person accused of child sex abuse, but the statute of limitations to sue an individual is only six years after a victim turns 18. Last year’s effort to change the latter failed.
The renewed push to eliminate the statute of limitations for lawsuits against alleged child sex abusers saw an unanimous Senate vote this week — a vote Wheat Ridge Democratic Sen. Jessie Danielson called “historic.” But the bipartisan bill, which now heads to a House committee, doesn’t apply to civil claims that will have already expired by the time it takes effect, which was a sticking point over constitutionality concerns last year.
That’s why lawmakers have introduced a second (also bipartisan) bill to create a new cause of action to allow people abused as children to sue public and private institutions like churches, schools and the Boy Scouts for past abuse that occurred under their watch. Both the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Boy Scouts, which is also facing abuse allegations in the state, are opposed.
Republican Rep. Matt Soper of Delta is one of the sponsors on both bills, partly because one statistic about childhood sexual abuse sticks with him: Victims often don’t disclose the abuse until their 50s.
“And usually, it’s not a one-off instance. It’s usually over and over again by a family member, a close family friend, someone who’s in a position of trust like a teacher or a priest or a club leader, or a trainer,” Soper said. “And it takes years and years for that individual to be able just to share their story.”
That was James “Jeb” Barrett’s experience. The child sexual abuse survivor and leader of the Denver Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (or SNAP) chapter grew up in Montana, and said he was sexually abused as a child by multiple adults he trusted — a teacher, an uncle, a priest and Scout leader. His partner, who had also been abused as a child, died by suicide.
It took him until he was 63 to talk about his abuse, he said. He’s now 81, and understands firsthand the effects of childhood trauma, including dealing with addiction.
Other times, the adults in a child’s life don’t believe them, furthering that trauma. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Brittany Pettersen shared the story of her own mother, who was sexually abused at a young age for years by Pettersen’s grandfather. Pettersen’s mom eventually told her mother, who didn’t believe her daughter.
“This bill is about slightly giving back to ensure (adults abused as children) actually feel for the first time in their life they have the justice they’ve been seeking, the acknowledgement they’ve been seeking for their entire life,” the Lakewood Democrat said.
After years of advocating for policies like the two in front of lawmakers, Barrett said he’s hopeful this time.
“It’s incrementally moving toward the openness, accountability and transparency that we need across the board,” and “justice,” he said.
Support and constitutionality concerns
At least one of the new bills has the support of the Victim Policy Institute, which lobbied heavily against it last year. And, as expected, survivors who’ve advocated for legislation in prior years are back this year, “so their story shapes public policy, so what happened to them doesn’t happen to any other child victim in the future,” said Raana Simmons, director of policy for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
If Colorado approves an elimination of the statute of limitations for civil claims, it will join 12 other states and the U.S. territory of Guam, according to Philadelphia-based Child USAdvocacy.
Kathryn Robb, executive director of the agency and a survivor herself, testifies in statehouses across the country. She said the country is starting to understand how long it takes to disclose abuse and the effects of this trauma on children’s brains and behavior.
“This is happening all over the country right now … because as a society, we are recognizing the enormous problem we have with child sexual abuse,” she said.
A prime example of the widespread nature of child sex abuse is the allegations against Catholic priests. A recent Colorado investigation revealed accusations against dozens of priests for allegedly sexually abusing at least 212 children over the past 70 years, and the church paid nearly $7 million to victims.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s three dioceses — Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — said it has supported unlimited time to seek criminal charges but not, as proposed in the bill, for civil statutes.
In a statement, the group said it supports “reasonable and fair extension of the civil statute of limitations; however, statutes of limitations must have a sensible time limit to ensure due process for all parties involved.”
The Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts of America supports the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil claims, Scout Executive and CEO Chuck Brasfeild wrote in a statement. But the group is concerned about the other bill — creating a new cause of action against an organization that either knew or should have known about the risks and concealed abuse — which, Brasfeild said, appears to be an unconstitutional overreach.
The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes that measure, saying: “Passing a bill with constitutional and due process problems does not put victims first. It will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and not promote true restorative justice. The Catholic Church in Colorado is eager to ensure survivors of abuse receive the support they need for true healing.”
But the bill sponsors say that’s the reason they created the measure — expected to have its first Senate committee hearing next week — so victims can sue abusers and the organizations that protected them regardless of when the abuse happened instead of using what’s referred to as a “lookback window” to revive old claims.
Legislative lawyers said a “lookback window” violates the state’s constitution, according to bill sponsors Commerce City Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Soper.
“We really wanted to respect our state’s constitution,” Soper said. “Otherwise, why are we here?”
Ted Trimpa, a Colorado lobbyist for the Victim Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C., had argued against the bill last year, saying it didn’t go far enough without the “lookback window.” He believed Colorado lawmakers should have taken the issue to court because other states have successfully won such challenges.
This year, his organization is reviewing whether it will support the civil cause of action bill and is supporting the statute of limitations bill, Trimpa said.
Danielsen said she is urging lawmakers to “think about the adults who endured this kind of abuse in their past because it was traumatic and caused lifelong damage and pain and suffering” — people who have had to seek treatment for years. It will shift the cost from the victims to the abusers as well as prevent young kids from having to face abusers in criminal court, she said. Instead, parents will be able to pursue civil action on their children’s behalf.
Approving this bill, she added, gives lawmakers the opportunity to “stand on the side of survivors and protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal.
Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.
Since requesting a meeting with Etienne in January, group members said the archbishop has refused to discuss their call for a citizen-led review of the Seattle Archdiocese’s private records on clergy abuse. Group members contend only full disclosure of the secret files — with a public airing about the archdiocese’s known pedophile clergy members and how the church dealt with them — can ultimately heal the church and rebuild trust within the broader community.
“What we’re proposing is not radical,” said Clark Kimerer, a retired Seattle police assistant chief and core member of Heal Our Church. “It’s truth and reconciliation — a time-tested process that provides healing.”
But so far, Etienne has responded with only impersonal, pro-forma letters that dispute the necessity for such an initiative, group members said.
In a recent email, a spokesperson for the archdiocese partly blamed the coronavirus lockdown for scuttling the archbishop’s plan for an in-person discussion with the group.
“We had a meeting set but the pandemic came, which postponed this meeting,” according to the archdiocese’s email. “This is a meeting that would be better done in person, which can’t be done right now.”
But the email added that a “thorough outside review of the files by qualified lay people (and) a review of allegations by a group of qualified lay experts has already been done.”
Before Etienne’s appointment to Seattle in 2019, the archdiocese undertook various efforts to examine and address clergy sexual-abuse cases. They included creating a case review board in 2004 to examine child sex-abuse claims against several priests, and hiring former FBI-agent-turned-consultant Kathleen McChesney to evaluate the archdiocese’s clergy-abuse archives. McChesney’s review resulted in the archdiocese’s 2016 publication of a list naming 77 clergy members with credible accusations of rape or other abuse dating back decades.
Etienne has since established a pastoral council to take input from the laity, and the archdiocese continues to keep a review board of appointed citizens for consultation on sex-abuse cases, the email said. It also has quietly updated its “credibly accused” list with the names of scores of clergy on loan from other dioceses or religious orders who worked in Western Washington schools and churches but were left off the archdiocese’s initial accounting.
“Given our history and deep commitment to healing and transparency, as well as our deep respect for and trust in the experts like Kathleen McChesney and review board members, we are not planning to replace them or create parallel structures or processes,” the archdiocese’s email said.
But the church’s efforts to date have failed to fully address the scandal and continue to promote secrecy, according to the Heal Our Church group members.
They contend the archdiocese has failed to explicitly reveal how much church officials knew about credibly accused clergy members and when they first learned of individual abuse allegations. The archdiocese also hasn’t provided details as to whether its high-ranking officials played any role in enabling or covering up cases of abuse, and if so, why that happened, the members said.
“There’s never been discussion of the how and why this all evolved,” said Terry Carroll, a retired King County judge. “We think a lot has to do with the bishops and decisions by the church, but there’s been no real accountability for that era because the whole story hasn’t been told.”
At times, such details have separately emerged in lawsuits brought against the archdiocese by abuse victims. In one case, the archdiocese’s required legal disclosures of portions of the secret file kept on one notorious priest, the Rev. Michael Cody, showed the late Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connolly knew Cody was a pedophile but nonetheless moved him from parish to parish. After The Seattle Times detailed the case in 2016, Seattle University removed Connolly’s name from its athletics and recreation center.
Carroll and Mike McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, both served on the Seattle Archdiocese’s first review panel. They’ve since become outspoken critics of what they’ve described as the archdiocese’s opaque handling of the scandal. The two were among a core group who helped launch Heal Our Church and the latest push for more transparency.
More than 250 practicing Catholics in the Seattle Archdiocese have signed on as supporters of the group, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes. Heal Our Church, which runs a website to promote its cause, hosted a webinar in October and invited Etienne, but the archbishop was a no-show.
The group plans to broaden its effort in the New Year and hasn’t ruled out taking legal action, Kimerer and Carroll said.
Released in November, the 449-page report found that years of allegations against McCarrick were ignored or covered up by bishops and other officials, allowing him to rise to the highest levels of Catholic church hierarchy. But the report downplayed the roles of surviving officials, placing the lion’s share of blame on the late Pope John Paul II.
“They tend to come together and circle the wagons when things go wrong,” Sullivan said of church authority.
The pandemic appears to be the archdiocese’s latest excuse for putting off dealing with the latest calls for transparency, Sullivan added.
“We’ve offered to meet virtually or with social distancing,” he said. “But (the archdiocese) refused those opportunities.”
Group members contend that ignoring the church faithful’s efforts for a definitive public airing only serves to further undermine the archdiocese’s credibility and diminish trust at a time of plummeting membership.
“We’re seeing a church in crisis,” said Kimerer, the former assistant police chief. “The faithful (are) leaving the church in droves and credibility is at an all-time low. But if, indeed, the archdiocese has addressed these issues, then why are they so averse to having a lay-led group validate that? We’d call that a clue.”
Residential school survivor Evelyn Korkmaz is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to release thousands of documents that detail the sexual and physical abuse of thousands of Indigenous children at St. Anne’s residential school in the last century.
Korkmaz said the federal government has not turned over 12,300 reports from Ontario Provincial Police investigations of violations at St. Anne’s in Fort Albany, Ont. despite an Ontario Superior Court order.
Following the court order in 2014, Ottawa released heavily redacted copies of materials generated by the OPP between 1992 and 1996.
“They’re useless if they’re redacted,” Korkmaz said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “This is part of Canada’s Indigenous history. We can learn from this.”
St. Anne’s Indian Residential School was run by the Catholic orders of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Sisters of the Cross from 1902 until 1976 and was funded by the federal government starting in 1906.
It was one of Canada’s most notorious residential schools. Indigenous children from Fort Albany First Nation in northern Ontario were sexually abused, punished by shocks delivered in electric chairs and forced to eat their own vomit, according to Edmund Metatawabin, a survivor and former chief of the First Nation.
Metatawabin was forced to attend the school between 1956 and 1963. He became a chief of his nation in 1988 and used his position to sponsor a panel for survivors to share their stories, putting together a report that triggered the police investigation in autumn 1992.
“The residential school issue is a very sensitive case for us. It was an embarrassing thing for us to face.” he said in an interview.
“It’s hard to say you were abused as a child. You want to keep that private.”
Metatawabin said more than 900 survivors of St. Anne’s decided to talk about their painful memories and testified to the police in the 1990s, resulting in a trove of information and criminal convictions of six former employees at the school.
In 2006, lawyers for former students and for the churches that ran residential schools, the Assembly of First Nations, other Indigenous organizations and the government approved the Indian Residential School Settlement, which included independent assessment processes to set compensation for claims of sexual or serious physical abuse.
However, many survivors of St. Anne’s have taken the federal government to court, seeking to reopen compensation cases that were settled before the partial release of the police documents in 2014.
A group of 60 survivors launched a case in 2013, claiming that the federal government failed to turn over those documents and breached the settlement agreement.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell, who has spent years supervising implementation of the settlement agreement, ruled earlier this year the case should be heard by a judge in British Columbia.
Perell had recused himself over his previous criticism of one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
In November, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Perell wrong to order the legal fight to be heard in B.C., saying the case pressed by survivors of St. Anne’s should remain in Ontario. The next hearing is to take place virtually on Dec. 31.
But Justice Brenda Brown of British Columbia Supreme Court issued a court order in May that permits the federal government to destroy the police documents in the new year.
The federal Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Department said in a statement Tuesday the government will retain the police reports until the courts determine the matters before them.
Metatawabin said the documents reveal wrongdoing by the government and the churches. “Instead of making amends, (the government) tried to hide these documents from survivors and from the public.”
The documents have significant value for the Fort Albany First Nation people because they contain elders’ testimonies on their history, Metatawabin said.
“These are sacred words from the elders,” he said. “It’s an insult to the memory of those elders that told their story, that the government took their words from them, and now they want to erase history.”
Korkmaz said these documents are important evidence of the violations committed at St. Anne’s.
“The government for some strange reason is protecting the pedophiles that were at our school,” she said. “A normal citizen of any country, who is caught sexually abusing a child goes to jail. … Why are the priests, the bishops, the cardinals being protected? Why are they allowed to do it?”
A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a former Vatican ambassador to France of sexually assaulting five men in 2018 and 2019, and handed him a suspended 8-month prison sentence.
Retired Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 76 — who was not present in court — was “shattered” by the verdict, according to his lawyer, Solange Doumic. She said she was uncertain whether he would lodge an appeal because the procedure “has been extremely painful for him.”
Ventura has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Sexual assault is punishable in France by up to five years’ imprisonment and fines in France.
The path for the prosecution of Ventura was cleared after the Vatican lifted his immunity in July 2019. His trial in absentia was held Nov. 10.
The sentence imposed Wednesday was more lenient than the suspended 10 months the prosecution had sought.
Doumic said her client had “explained himself multiple times,” over what the defense has described as “minor” accusations.
But the court decision “shows he wasn’t heard, despite a 7-hour hearing on gestures which are simple, light,” she said after the verdict.
Five men alleged that they had suffered Ventura’s “hands on the buttocks” during his public diplomatic duties in France. The case erupted in February 2019 amid multiple sex scandals affecting the Catholic Church.
Among the accusers was a former seminarian, Mahe Thouvenel, who said he was grabbed repeatedly by the clergyman when they celebrated Mass in December 2018. Another, Mathieu De La Souchere, alleged that Ventura touched his behind repeatedly during a reception at Paris City Hall.
Thouvenel said his seminary kicked him out after he filed a police complaint. Under questioning from Ventura’s lawyer, he put his right hand on the top of his right buttock to show one of the spots where he was allegedly groped.
“It’s violent,” Thouvenel said during the trial. “It sticks in your memory.”
The judge said at the time that, during prior questioning, Ventura had explained his behavior by saying he had a “Latin” temperament and that there was nothing sexual about his gestures.
“These types of verdicts, when it involves a Vatican ambassador, can give other victims the courage to come forward in other cases potentially involving the church,” said Antoinette Frety, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “They know now that they will be heard no matter what the rank of the aggressor is within the church. And that’s very important.”
Another lawyer for the plaintiffs, Edmond-Claude Frety, said the verdict should encourage potential victims not to give up.
“It means that victims have to be brave, have to leave the silence and to talk,” he said. Ventura “will not be in jail tonight, of course, but it’s quite an important conviction because it means that these facts are now considered very severely by the courts.”
The former envoy had produced a doctor’s note saying it was too dangerous for him to travel from Rome to Paris for the November trial amid France’s resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
The call came one warm night in June 2019. A young Polish priest referred to as “John Doe 1” in a federal lawsuit filed Monday knew it was his boss, Rev. Miroslaw Krol, and he knew that Krol was drunk. But he didn’t know the night would end with him driving an intoxicated Krol and another visiting priest to a motel to meet a male sex worker, and then, according to the suit, withdrawing cash from an ATM so Krol could pay him.
Krol is the chancellor and CEO of Orchard Lake Schools, an Oakland County campus that includes a private prep school, St. Mary’s; a seminary, and a Polish cultural center. A leading figure in the Detroit area’s Polish Catholic community, both Krol and the OLS leadership are named as defendants in a suit in which three men — including two priests — say Rev. Krol recruited them to Orchard Lake with the intent of sexually abusing them.
On Stateside, host April Baer talks to reporter Kate Wells about this story.
But when Krol’s abuse was repeatedly reported to Orchard Lake’s board of trustees — which includes the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of the Detroit Archdiocese — these men say they were either forced to resign or were abruptly fired. Krol is currently on leave, according to a statement from Steve Gross, Chairman of the Board of Regents:
“In our judgment, these former employees of the Orchard Lake Schools who are asserting these claims while simultaneously seeking to remain anonymous have mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding their terminations. It is important to note all individuals named in the lawsuit are adults. These former employees bringing this employment action did not work with any minors, nor did their roles involve the
High School on our campus. We are confident that the facts, in this case, will prevail, that the legal process will determine their claims lack merit, and that we acted appropriately at all times.
As an institution, we have been and will continue to be fully committed to following the highest
standards for our students, faculty, and staff.”
“Father Krol denies all allegations of misconduct, and looks forward to being vindicated,” said attorney Roy Henley, who represents Krol, in an emailed statement Monday. “He has no other comment at this time, and accordingly respectfully declines your offer of an on-air interview.”
The public relations office for the Detroit Archdiocese did not respond to requests for comments or interviews.
Who is Rev. Miroslaw Krol?
Krol, a native of Poland, “brings significant money into the OLS organization and has deep ties to the Vatican by virtue of his friendship with Polish Cardinal [Stanislaw] Dziwisz, a former Secretary to Pope John Paul II,” according to the federal suit.
Krol initially studied at the SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary at Orchard Lake. Located in West Bloomfield Township, it bills itself as “the only seminary in the United States dedicated to preparing foreign-born seminarians, primarily from Poland, to serve the Catholic Church in our country.”
Krol went on to complete his training in New Jersey, where he studied under and was ordained by the now-notorious former American Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who sexually abused minors and seminarians for decades.
“It is in this environment that Defendant Krol completed his religious training and spent much of his early years as a priest in Newark — where McCarrick was Archbishop. Indeed, Krol was ordained by McCarrick and, upon information and belief, witnessed in him many of the grooming tactics that Fr. Krol would later employ at OLS.”
In 2006, Kroll returned to Orchard Lake as dean and vice rector of the seminary. According to the complaint, rumors started that he was “engag[ing] in sexual activity with seminarians.”
“At least one young seminarian recruited from Poland during this time period is reported to have confided in both a local priest and in a Bishop in New Jersey that the sexual activity involving Krol at these parties was not always consensual. Upon information and belief, the Bishop told the seminarian that if he wanted to become a priest, he should not say anything further about the topic.”
Meanwhile, Krol was traveling to Poland to recruit young men, including those who allegedly “had failed out of seminary in Poland or who had issues with alcohol and sexual matters.” The suit accuses Krol of falsifying their academic transcripts to get them into Orchard Lake, where they were “alone and eager to revive their dreams of becoming a priest. They were vulnerable and largely dependent on Krol.”
In 2017, when Krol was being considered as a candidate for chancellor of Orchard Lake, “two priests who had worked with Krol at OLS in the past raised concerns with the OLS Board of Regents regarding Krol’s behavior…[and] rumored sexual misconduct when he had served as a Dean and Vice Rector,” the claim alleges.
“Despite these warnings about Krol, the OLS Board of Regents appointed him as Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer in 2017.”
John Doe 1: A young Polish priest
John Doe 1 first met Krol when he was a young seminary student in Poland, where Krol often came to recruit students to Michigan. Years later, the suit alleges Krol aggressively recruited Doe 1 to leave his role as a priest in a New Jersey parish to come work as vice chancellor of Orchard Lake, promising to pay for and arrange his green card.
But the green card never materialized. Instead, Krol began controlling every aspect of his life, according to the complaint: berating him, demanding he “be available at all times,” forcing him to cancel plans or return early from vacations. He also began inviting Doe 1 to his apartment for late-night meetings, where Krol “drank to excess.” One evening, the suit alleges, Krol pushed his hands down Doe 1’s pants and touched his penis. The next day Krol told him how much “fun” he’d had, and went on to make frequent references to the size of Doe 1’s penis.
“After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”
So when Krol called him that June night, asking Doe 1 to drive him and a visiting priest from Chicago to a bar, Doe 1 refused. But Krol, who was clearly intoxicated, threatened to get behind the wheel himself. Feeling trapped, Doe 1 agreed to give them a ride.
“When they got to the bar, John Doe 1 realized that it was a gay bar,” the complaint reads. “When they left, Fr. Krol directed John Doe 1 to another stop — which John Doe 1 soon realized was a motel. At the motel, a male sex worker, who Krol had apparently contacted through the internet, was waiting. It was apparent to John Doe 1 that the sex worker knew Fr. Krol.
“John Doe 1 remained in the car while the other priests went into the motel,” the complaint says. “At one point, the priests asked John Doe 1 to retrieve cash from an ATM, which John Doe 1 concluded was used to pay the sex worker. When they arrived back to Krol’s apartment that evening, John Doe 1 began to help Krol — who had fallen asleep in the back seat — out of the car. Krol threw his arms around John Doe 1’s neck and tried to hug him … and then started kissing him on the face and lips, trying to put his tongue in John Doe 1’s mouth. John Doe 1 pushed Krol away and told him to go home.”
Doe 1 didn’t know where to turn. He’d seen Krol use his power and influence to destroy the careers of other young priests he didn’t like, the complaint alleges, and feared he couldn’t leave Orchard Lake without angering Krol. Eventually, Doe 1 confided in his bishop in New Jersey, who is not named in the suit, but who told Doe 1 he had to leave.
“Ultimately, John Doe 1 decided to tell Krol that he had to leave for reasons related to his green card,” the suit says. “John Doe 1 left OLS in October 2019. After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”
John Doe 2: A classical musician from Chicago
At the same time Joan Doe 1 was trying to find a way out, his coworker was experiencing similar harassment and abuse by Krol, according to the complaint.
“John Doe 2” is not a priest. A Polish native and professional classical musician in Chicago, John Doe 2 was also recruited to Orchard Lake by Krol to take on a prominent position as director of the Polish Mission there.
Both he and Doe 1 were hired in 2018. And like Doe 1, John Doe 2 says Krol began making unwanted sexual advances soon after he started at Orchard Lake. On weekends, Doe 2 would drive back to Chicago to be with his wife and daughter. But that left four evenings a week when Krol knew he was on campus, Doe 2 says.
At first, Krol would invite Doe 2 to his apartment in the evenings, and invited him to “lay down” or “relax” in Kroll’s bed. Doe 2 says he made it clear to Krol that he wasn’t interested and left his apartment, but Krol became increasingly aggressive. Then came the text message, in Polish, warning Doe 2 that if he didn’t accept Krol’s invitation, his job would be on the line.
That night, Krol lunged at him, “leaping into his lap” and “kissing his neck and lips and trying to put his hands down John Doe 2’s pants,” the suit alleges. “Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.” Doe 2 says he “pushed Krol away and left his apartment,” and tried to ignore Krol’s messages or schedule work meetings to conflict with Krol’s invitations.
Doe 2 says initially, he was in shock. Having been raised in Poland and with several members of his family serving as priests, Doe 2 had spent his life in the church community. He says he started to tell other members of the Orchard Lake community about what was happening. Some of them seemed shocked. But others told him they weren’t surprised.
“Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.”
“I heard from some of them that there was gossip a long time ago going around about Father Krol, you know, being this or that,” John Doe 2 told Michigan Radio. “So I was shocked, like, ‘So there are people who heard about that already a long time ago, before I got to Orchard Lake, and didn’t do anything about it? Like, are you waiting for something really crazy to happen here on campus?’
“But some … people told me, ‘Well, oh my god, thank God! Because there was already gossip that you had a relationship with Father Kroll…. Thank God that you are straight, you are not the gay.’ Because that was what was the gossip, was that people were telling each other, ‘You know what? Maybe he’s his lover or having a relationship with him.’”
Doe 2 says eventually he just wanted to “forget” what had happened in Krol’s apartment, he says, “and move on and then focus on my job and my work. Hopefully nothing’s going to happen, because I sent the message [to Krol.] It’s kind of like, ‘Goodbye, thank you very much.’ And hopefully he will get it. And so I was hoping for that. But unfortunately, it got worse and worse and worse.”
Krol began luring Doe 2 to his apartment by pretending to have a heart attack or medical emergency, or saying they needed to talk about “future plans for the Polish Mission.”
“During the meeting, Krol had several drinks and at one point excused himself to go to the bathroom,” according to the suit. “When he returned, Krol sat next to John Doe 2, put his hand on John Doe 2’s leg, and began slowly moving it up his thigh. At the same time, Krol reached his other hand into his own pants and began to masturbate. Krol began asking John Doe 2 to have sex with him and telling John Doe 2 that he loved him. John Doe 2, as in the past, rejected Krol’s advance by moving Krol’s hand off his leg and leaving the apartment.”
It was a turning point. In January 2020, Doe 2 says he reported Krol’s sexual harassment to John Roland, a member of the OLS Board of Regents and Vice Chairman of the Polish Mission’s Board of Directors. Roland said he had to “disclose the information to the entire Board of Regents,” the complaint says, but the “other Board members chastised him — suggesting that Mr. Roland should have addressed this issue only with Krol. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Roland was removed from the OLS Board.”
Just a few weeks later, on January 15, 2020, the COO of Orchard Lake, Todd Covert, asked to talk with Doe 2 privately in his office.
“So he closed the door, and he said, ‘We need to talk about stuff. There is that person who reported to us, the board member [who] reported to us…. And I need to ask questions, and I want to talk to you about it. So are you OK [with that?]’
“I said ‘Yes, no problem.’ But I said, ‘Can I record the meeting?’ Because I was scared already, you know? And he said, ‘No, there is no reason. It’s only the two of us. So there is no reason for recording that meeting.’ And I told him, ‘You know what, I would really like to record that meeting. If not, then I can’t talk to you…. [If] there is nothing to hide, why not to record?’ So then finally he said yes.”
Doe 2 says he still has that recording, though his attorneys declined to provide it to Michigan Radio. But Doe 2 says he recounted Krol’s harassment and abuse over the previous year and half. And Covert seemed sympathetic, he says.
“He told me that he feels very bad for me, and they are going to take this very seriously. They are going to look into it, they are going to investigate, and that there is already investigation going on. And they’re going to get back to me with more staff, more details, more probably questions.”
Doe 2 says he returned home to Chicago that same day. Two days later, he opened his email to find a message from the vice Chaicman of the Board of Regents, asking Doe 2 to contact him about a “‘very urgent, very important issue.’”
“And then before I was able to respond to that email or contact him, I got another email” saying his contract with Orchard Lake and the Polish mission has been terminated. The email accused Doe 2 of “a variety of criminal and tortious conduct,” the suit alleges, including that Doe 2 had stolen or mismanaged money from the Polish mission.
Those allegations were “untrue,” the suit claims, and “had never been raised with Doe 2 previously, and was nowhere mentioned in his personnel file.” But he soon learned that Krol was publicly saying Doe 2 had been fired under a cloud of suspicion for misusing Orchard Lake funds.
In the close-knit, Midwestern Polish Catholic community, word spread fast, Doe 2 says. He started getting calls to his home in Chicago from friends who’d heard the rumors.
“He talked badly about me in Poland, too,” Doe 2 says. “So people who knew me [for] many years, they contacted me, and they said, ‘There is something not correct. You are not that guy .’
“So it was very shocking. And I was sitting alone [at home] because I couldn’t, at the time, talk openly. I couldn’t let people know what was happening, really, behind the scenes…. He hurt my name that I built for years and years. And then I thought, what about my child, you know, if she hears some story later on, and it’s untrue?”
Doe broke down, sitting in his car in his garage, so that his daughter wouldn’t hear him while she was doing virtual school inside the family’s home. “I’m doing this for all the future victims. I don’t want anything like that to happen to anyone. But mostly for my daughter. I want to look in her eyes every day, and know that I did the right thing.”
“I was the guy who was victimized, and going through the trauma, and seeking for help and telling people ‘Listen, guys, help me. This is something not right. This is crazy stuff going on on this campus from the leader. This is what is happening to me as an employee.’ And they did nothing.”
Reports and retaliation
The third and final victim mentioned in the suit is not a formal plaintiff, but was witness to similar behavior by Krol. He, too, was a young Polish priest recruited by Kroll soon after John Doe 2 left Orchard Lake. He too says Krol sexually harassed him, and that when Doe 3 rejected him, Krol “began sending him torrents of abusive text messages, and blaming [him] for mistakes that he had not made.”
In December 2019, Doe 3 told Krol he would leave Orchard Lake when his contract ended the following June. Instead, Krol fired him in March. Doe 3 says he reported Krol “to church authorities by writing to the Archdiocese of Detroit in or around March of 2020.”
Soon after, a detective from the Michigan Attorney General’s office contacted Doe 3, and interviewed him. The same detective also reached out to Doe 1, who eventually agreed to disclose Krol’s abuse as well. According to the lawsuit, no one from Orchard Lake has reached out to either of the young priests about their complaints.
Then in August, lawyers for the two plaintiffs reached out to Orchard Lake’s leadership to formally report the allegations of sexual harassment. One month later, in September, Krol went on a popular Polish radio show, and accused both Doe 2 and Doe 3 of “misappropriating funds.” Doe 1 says Krol began contacting his friends and family members and making threatening statements. “Indeed, shortly after Krol learned of John Doe 1’s cooperation with legal counsel in this matter, parishioners in John Doe 1’s diocese began receiving anonymous and disparaging letters about John Doe 1,” the suit says.
“It’s so disappointing to me, both as an attorney and as a Catholic, to see a Church institution respond this way to really serious, credible claims from multiple people that have come forward,” says Jennifer Salvatore, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “And that’s really disappointing, because the world knows now how they’re supposed to respond. The law is really clear about how they’re supposed to respond, and the church knows how they’re supposed to respond. And time and again, they are not honoring their legal obligations or their moral obligations with respect to how these issues are being addressed. And to see it happen in 2019, 2020 in a Catholic Church entity is just tragic.”