Michael Kolar, former priest, tells of the sexual abuse he gave and received in new documents
Artwork by Martin Ontiveros
"What began so innocently has ended in a Holocaust, and I have learned more in 3 years than one possibly learns in 90."
So wrote a young woman in a 1979 letter that is perhaps the most haunting piece of evidence yet against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Today the priest in question is Michael Kolar, but the documents (made public by attorney Jeff Anderson) look the same. They bear the same signatures. They tell the same story -- of abuse and denial and fear. Only this time, we find tragedy heaped upon tragedy.
Before leaving the priesthood, in 1992, Kolar told the church that as a boy his female babysitter had fondled him and that Jerome Boxleitner tried to rape him in seminary school. They were on a trip to the priest's lakeside cabin.
Boxleitner's name has been thrown around certain circles as a possible abuser in the past, but, as the former head of Catholic Charities, he was the closest thing the Twin Cities have to a saint. The Pioneer Press once described Boxleitner as a "cross between Michael the Archangel, a Chicago ward boss and a gruff uncle."
Contrast that image with the one offered by Kolar. He told no one of the attempted rape, but walked away from the experience a changed man:
What it did was give me permission to take care of my sexual problems provided that I did it covertly. That is the way he handled his sexuality; I was, thus, taught that that was the way I could handle mine.
Around this same time, the seminarians noted in Kolar's file that his judgment was "questionable on occasion." Still, his first gig after ordination was as assistant director at the Catholic Youth Center in 1969. The first reports of abuse showed up a decade later, and the archdiocese reacted by deeming the allegations untrue and suggesting the victims (including the young woman who wrote the letter) were emotionally disturbed.
But by the late 1980s, as the number of allegations grew, Kolar was seeing a therapist regularly. And so was at least one of his victims. He took a morning job at White Castle to pay for the counseling.
In the summer of 1988, he was admitted for treatment at St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, a favored hiding place for naughty priests. For months, top clerics back home debated the best way to "control the flow of information" and limit scandal. Then-Chancellor Kevin McDonough wrote that what was needed was a "pro-active communication stance."
They moved him down to South America, only to find that the allegations continued. So they brought him back home.
Finally, on Feb. 6, 1991, the parents of one girl who had been close to Kolar -- "the man who prayed over our dying father, ate at our table, even blessed our home" -- wrote to Archbishop John Roach, demanding justice.
So Archbishop, as we go about our job of living and loving, we expect you to go about yours. You don't have to call me nor write me with all the platitudes I know so well; just do your job.
An affidavit signed the following month by Father Greg Skrypek shows that Kolar had impregnated one teenager in 1982, ending in a miscarriage. Then-Vicar General Michael O'Connell responded by asking McDonough, "Is it too late to try and do anything with Skrypek? Any buttonholing or directing?"
Jeff Anderson released these documents today, and more, with a note that Kolar still lives in St. Paul and accepts his priest pension. (We could not reach him this morning.) Anderson is suing not only the archdiocese but also the Diocese of Winona, alleging they conspired together and for years posed a threat to the entire metro.
On Tuesday, a Ramsey County judge rejected the defendants' request to throw the case out. A jury trial is set for Sept. 22.
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