The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego issued a statement of regret and concern Tuesday regarding allegations against a Palm Springs priest who is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges that he sexually abused her in New York nearly 50 years ago, when she was 19.
The lawsuit alleges that the Rev. Paul Kowalewski — who currently serves as a substitute priest at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert — molested the plaintiff in Buffalo in 1971. He was an ordained Roman Catholic priest at the time, according to the complaint filed Monday against the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, where Kowalewski was affiliated from 2005 to 2013.
The plaintiff, Patricia Harner, alleges that Kowalewski abused her, along with several children and at least one other adult, and that the Los Angeles diocese knew of his alleged history when he joined the diocese.
According to the Desert Sun newspaper, the Church of St. Paul placed Kowalewski on administrative leave after the allegations came to light. The Diocese of Los Angeles also placed him under suspension, restricting him from practicing as a minister until the allegations can be investigated.
“We will cooperate fully with the investigation that will be conducted by the Diocese of Los Angeles and any other authorities,” said the Rev. Susan Brown Snook, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, which includes 43 congregations in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties, as well as Yuma County, Arizona.
“Clergy have a sacred position of trust. We take seriously all complaints, and research them thoroughly,” she said.
Brown Snook also said she has notified churches at which Kowalewski served in recent years of the allegations and suggested they comply with the Los Angeles diocese’s restriction.