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Sexual abuse lawsuit filed against former Buffalo priest still preaching in CA

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A one-time Buffalo Catholic priest, who is now on suspension as an Episcopal priest in Los Angeles, allegedly molested at least two people here before leaving the Catholic Church. Paul Kowalewski is now facing a lawsuit.

This latest case involves Minneapolis lawyer Jeff Anderson, who has cases against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and expects to file more next month when a new law takes effect, reopening events that occurred in the past.

In this latest case, Patricia Harner says she was sexually abused by Paul Kowalewski when he was a Buffalo seminarian. Subsequently, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1973 and left a few years later, resurfacing as an Episcopal priest in the Syracuse area and eventually in California.

Anderson told WBFO Kowalewski is a danger to parishioners in a Palm Springs, CA church.

"That he has violated her and at least one other child that we know of, and that he is now at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert, ministering and allowed to minister by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese as we speak," Anderson said.

Harner said she held off going public since her alleged attack in 1971.

"I was so ashamed. I was so embarrassed and full of guilt and my family was so Catholic. I didn't know what to do," Harner said. "I didn't say anything to anybody until two years ago when I told my husband. I kept it to myself."

Anderson and his legal associates say they don't know if there have been allegations against Kowalewski in California, but they are seeking access to his personnel files in Los Angeles and in San Diego in the lawsuit filed on Monday.

Kowalewski's name is not on any list released by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, although that is likely to be an issue in another lawsuit to be filed here after Aug. 14, when the Child Victims Act kicks in across New York State.

Lawyer Mike Reck said there is more in Episcopal records.

"The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles had reason to know that this offender acted out against children in the Diocese of Buffalo," said Reck. "We represent one other survivor who was a child who alleges abuse by this same offender. That lawsuit will be filed under the New York Child Victims Act next month."

WBFO reached out to the Buffalo Catholic Diocese for comment on this latest allegation, but did not hear back.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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