What We Can Learn From A 20-Year-Old Dallas Priest Sex Abuse Trial

Plaintiffs in the case against priest Rudy Kos didn’t settle or sign nondisclosure agreements. That paved the way for more priest sex-abuse victims to come forward and seek justice.

By Joy DiazAugust 27, 2018 1:38 pm

Last week, a priest went missing from his Texas parish, and a U.S. cardinal missed his trip to Ireland with Pope Francis. Both have something to do with the latest revelations of pedophilia that continue to plague the Catholic Church. Over the years, some cases have gone to court but none has been as pivotal as the case that was tried in Dallas two decades ago.

Lawyer Windle Turley represented eight of the 11 plaintiffs in the case against priest Rudolph “Rudy” Kos.

Turley says Kos was allowed to go into the priesthood despite objections from the priest who ran his seminary. Kos went on to sexually abuse boys in several parishes in the Dallas area. His crimes included “grooming” boys from as young as age seven, and coercing them into performing various sexual acts. His abuse also involved plying the boys with alcohol and drugs. One boy committed suicide before the trial. Turley says he didn’t realize how damaging sexual abuse could be for a person, before he worked on this case.

“I wasn’t totally aware of how injurious sexual abuse is to an adolescent. It lasts, in most instances…for the rest of their life,” Turley says.

As a result of the trial, the Catholic Church had to pay each of the plaintiff survivors of Kos’ abuse nearly $1.7 million. Turley says the final amount actually reached $120 million, but that the church didn’t end up paying the full amount because it would have bankrupted the Dallas diocese.

What makes the Kos case stand out most of all is its transparency. Turley says normally the church settles sexual abuse cases and requires non-disclosure agreements from the plaintiffs.

“Always the church had settled the cases and attached to the settlements a mandatory confidentiality agreement…saying to the victims, You can’t tell anybody that you even filed the case, you can’t tell anybody how much we settled for or that it ever even existed,” Turley says.

Turley says this transparency resulted in empowering other victims to speak up because lawyers would be more willing to take their cases. It also empowered judges — and the media — to actually listen to them, Turley says.

“It was a different day after that,” Turley says.

Moving forward, Turley says the Texas Supreme Court needs to stop enforcing confidentiality agreements when it comes to pedophilia cases.

Written by Caroline Covington.