According to the Post Gazette, the Diocese of Greensburg priest arrested and charged for repeatedly sexually assaulting an altar boy between 2004 and 2007. The victim at the beginning of the alleged assault was 11-years-old.
The victim told investigations that he was repeatedly exposed to the 65-year-old priest Andrew Kawecki’s abuse as an altar server. He then detailed some of his abuse to investigators and said that Father Kawecki would instruct him to arrive for altar duty early and make him stay late. It was during those times he would be alone with Father Kawecki, and the alleged abuse occurred. On multiple occasions, Kawecki would make the boy masturbate him, and once forced him to perform oral sex.
Kawecki is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, and two counts of indecent assault.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent represents victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. We asked Kent to highlight the legal rights of victims sexually abused by a clergy member.
Kent said, “churches have a legal obligation to uphold the safety of its members. Sometimes sexual predators are found in positions of power and trust at churches to exploit their victims. The exploitation of congregation members is seen across religious organizations, as numerous religious leaders have been charged with sexual abuse. Knowing that sexual predators are often found in positions of power at churches, these organizations are obligated to do their best to prevent predators from abusing members.”
Later, Kent highlighted that churches could be held liable in a civil lawsuit for not protecting its members’ safety. In some sexual abuse cases, the abuse only occurs because the organization was negligent. An example of negligence is if active clergy members had sexual misconduct complaints were filed against them and were ignored. Organizations must implement measures to protect their congregation members, for example, an easy reporting system. However, in cases where the religious organization is negligent, the sexual abuse victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit.