A civil jury on July 24 ordered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas to pay $119.6 million in damages for sexual abuse caused by a parish priest. The award is the largest ever in a case of molestation by a priest.

The jury convicted Rudolph Kos, now a San Diego resident, of sexually molesting altar boys. The plaintiffs, 10 men and the family of an eleventh victim who committed suicide in 1992, said the abuse occurred between 1977 and 1992 while Kos attended Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas and was assigned to three Texas parishes.

The plaintiffs asserted that an investigation by church officials before Kos entered the priesthood would have revealed that he had served a year in a juvenile detention center for molesting a neighbor. The diocese was convicted of gross negligence, malice, conspiracy, and fraud.

Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas says the civil suit has been painful. "I have learned how difficult it is for all of us, for the church, when we find that wolves have come in sheep's clothing and entered our midst undetected."

The plaintiffs each will receive between $7.4 million and $13.2 million. Grahmann said the diocese had begun clergy educational programs about child abuse. But he said the verdict will be appealed.

Kos, who was suspended from the priesthood in 1992, awaits criminal trial on additional abuse charges.

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