[Marxism] Jesuits molested Inuit children

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 19 06:43:38 MST 2005

LA Times, November 19, 2005
Missionary's Dark Legacy

Two remote Alaska villages are still reeling from a Catholic volunteer's 
sojourn three decades ago, when he allegedly molested nearly every Eskimo 
boy in the parishes. The accusers, now men, are scarred

By William Lobdell, Times Staff Writer

ST. MICHAEL, Alaska — Peter "Packy" Kobuk has to walk past the old Catholic 
church to get almost anywhere. To fill a drum of heating oil. To take his 
children to school. To wash his clothes at the only laundromat in this 
Eskimo village of 370.

"I think about burning it down, but I have to block that out," says Kobuk, 
46. "It all comes back to me right away each time I have to see it."

The decaying wood-frame building also haunts John Lockwood, a married 
father of nine. Its bell tower, which rises above the village's 90 plywood 
shacks and prefabricated houses, is one of the first landmarks he sees when 
returning home in a longboat from hunting seals in the Bering Sea.

"It brings back a lot," says Lockwood, whose weathered face reflects a life 
spent in the Alaska outdoors. "He did all those bad things to us little 
kids there, and no one did nothing to stop it."

Even after 30 years, the men can't shake their memories of the late Joseph 
Lundowski, a volunteer Catholic missionary who arrived in their village in 

The devoutly Catholic village elders welcomed Lundowski warmly, as they did 
all men of the cloth. But the children soon grew to fear and despise him.

Now grown, they said that over a seven-year period, "Deacon Joe" molested 
nearly every boy in St. Michael and the neighboring settlement of Stebbins.

The alleged victims, now in their 40s and 50s, say they secretly carried 
this burden until last year. Then, after watching the Catholic sexual abuse 
scandal unfold on satellite television, 28 men from the two villages 
decided to break their silence.

"We couldn't tell anyone [before] because no one would believe us," said 
Kobuk, one of the few St. Michael Eskimos who is still a Catholic. He wears 
a homemade rosary around his neck, the blue beads held together by string 
from a fishing net.

"He worked for God, and I was just an Eskimo child."

In 1886, the Jesuits established their first mission in western Alaska. 
Making converts in this frozen, unforgiving corner of the world proved 
difficult at first.

For thousands of years, Eskimos' lives as hunters and gatherers had been 
ruled by Yuuyaaraq, or "the way of the human being." Yu'pik people believed 
that their elaborate oral traditions and spiritual beliefs helped ward off 
bad weather, famine and illness.

It wasn't until an influenza epidemic in 1900 wiped out more than 60% of 
Alaska's native population that the Jesuits began to make headway.

The Eskimo shamans seemed no match for the deadly virus. The spiritual 
defeat, along with encroaching Western influences, caused entire villages 
to convert to the new religion.

Today, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks stretches across the upper 
two-thirds of Alaska, a rugged chunk of territory bigger than Texas but 
with just 41 churches and 24 priests.

Staffing remote parishes such as those in St. Michael and Stebbins with 
full-time priests has proved impossible, which is why Lundowski and other 
volunteers played a key role in village ministries.

Just 200 miles below the Arctic Circle, the wind-swept settlements of St. 
Michael Island sit 12 miles apart on a rugged section of coast where the 
tundra meets the Bering Sea. They are accessible only by small plane or, 
when the ice melts on Norton Sound, by boat.

In summer, the island is a place of great beauty. Wildflowers blanket the 
rolling hills, and the occasional Beluga whale swims among schools of 
herring and king salmon in the dark blue sea.

In winter, the landscape becomes a white, windy Arctic desert, and even the 
sea freezes for months on end.

Lundowski arrived in 1968, at the end of a long personal odyssey. An 
orphan, he was raised in West Virginia by his aunt. During World War II, he 
served in the Army under Gen. George Patton in North Africa and Europe, 
former associates said.

After the war, he lived at a Trappist monastery in Oregon and worked as a 
commercial fisherman in Alaska before volunteering to help Father George 
Endal, a Jesuit priest, in several Eskimo villages.

Father Endal was responsible for St. Michael, Stebbins and a third 
settlement, Unalakleet, 45 minutes away by plane. Villagers said that for 
long stretches of time, he left parish affairs on St. Michael Island in the 
hands of Lundowski and another lay missionary.

Though Lundowski was never ordained, he assumed the role of a Catholic priest.

Villagers said he wore vestments and held Sunday services, gave homilies, 
taught catechism, baptized children, officiated at weddings and performed 
burial services at a hillside cemetery, where digging a grave required 
breaking through six feet of frozen tundra with picks and shovels.

Lundowski started molesting boys soon after he arrived, according to legal 
documents. Joseph Steve, a slight, soft-spoken man in his mid-50s, believes 
he was the missionary's first target.

Then 17 and a devout Catholic, Steve had volunteered to help Lundowski 
teach catechism classes at St. Bernard Church in Stebbins.

One afternoon, he said, Lundowski asked him to stay after class and wash 
some dishes. "He sneaked up on me," Steve said. "He pulled my pants down 
and penetrated me."

"I never finished the dishes," he said.

Lundowski had daily access to the village children, teaching them catechism 
and holding afternoon recreation sessions in the "monkey rooms," as parish 
play areas were called.

Kobuk said he attended Lundowski's catechism classes at the St. Michael 
parish beginning at age 12.

One day, after Kobuk recited the Ten Commandments and sang "This Is the Day 
the Lord Has Made," Lundowski told him to stay after class. After the other 
boys left, Lundowski locked the doors and lowered the window shades, Kobuk 

"I was scared and asked him what he was going to do, and he says, 'You'll 
see,' " Kobuk recalled.

Kobuk said that Lundowski removed his dentures and performed oral sex on 
him in the missionary's rectory bedroom. Then Lundowski gave Kobuk a $20 
bill — a fortune for an Eskimo boy in 1971 — and told him he was a "special 
kid," Kobuk said.

Over the next four years, Kobuk said the missionary plied him with altar 
wine, sodomized him and forced him to engage in sexual acts with other 
Eskimo children — boys and girls.

Kobuk said that when he threatened to tell, Lundowski told him to go ahead, 
insisting that no one would believe a child over a man of God. Kobuk said 
the missionary also threatened to flunk Kobuk in catechism class.

"I was torn between getting my first Communion, the money, the alcohol and 
the candy, and the molestation," he said.

Another villager, Elias Pete Jr., 43, hung out at the Stebbins church on 
weekday afternoons and Saturdays through the winter, drawn by the warmth of 
its oil-burning stove. When he was 9, Pete said, Lundowski performed oral 
sex on him for the first of many times. Afterward, he said, the missionary 
gave him 25 cents that he shook out of an Easter Seal donation can.

Nicolas Pete, Elias' 41-year-old uncle, said Lundowski would threaten to 
take away stars that tracked his progress toward confirmation unless the 
boy consented to sex.

"When he was all done, he would say, 'You can keep that star,' or 'I'll 
give you another one.' Silver or blue, those were the high-ranking ones."

Lockwood, 48, of St. Michael, said Lundowski would drag him into the 
rectory bedroom, digging his meaty fingers into Lockwood's biceps hard 
enough to leave bruises.

"He'd block the door, and there was no way to fight that big, blubbery 
guy," Lockwood said.

After one attack, he said, "I showed him the bruises and said I was going 
to tell. But he just said, 'You're a little kid. People will just think you 
fell down.' "

The isolated and impoverished Eskimo villages had spotty telephone service 
and no police officers. But Kobuk and several others said they tried to get 
help. A few told their parents, who didn't believe them. Three said they 
reported Lundowski's conduct to Father Endal, who promised to take care of 
it, though the molestations continued.

Endal died in 1996 and has since been accused of molesting a minor.

"I thought [Lundowski] would get in trouble for what he was doing," said 
Thomas Cheemuk, who alleged that he was molested as a boy. "I couldn't 
figure it out. I decided one time to tell somebody, but I couldn't figure 
who to go to."

The end came without warning. One day, Lundowski was teaching catechism 
classes to the village boys. The next morning, he was gone.

Jerry Austin, who owned St. Michael's only plane, said an agitated Father 
Endal approached him one day in 1975 and asked him to fly Lundowski to 
Unalakleet the next morning.

Austin suggested Lundowski wait until later in the day, when a bush pilot 
was expected to fly in. "He said it would be too late," Austin recalled.

He said he agreed to make the flight as a favor to the church. "Everyone 
around here had heard the rumors about Lundowski," Austin said.

The next morning, Lundowski climbed into the single-propeller plane 
carrying only a small duffel bag. They flew in silence to Unalakleet.

With the missionary gone, most of his alleged victims set about trying to 

Like many others, Lockwood turned to alcohol and drugs. Because both 
villages are dry settlements — a fifth of hard liquor goes for $150 on the 
black market — Lockwood made "home brew" alcohol, a mixture of yeast, sugar 
and fruit juice.

"It's not good, but it does the job," Lockwood says.

Thomas Cheemuk got married, raised six children and attempted suicide three 
times. In 1999, his brother, John "Dunny" Cheemuk Jr., killed himself, a 
death Tommy attributes to the molestations.

Kobuk vented his rage with a string of assaults — on fellow villagers, a 
church secretary and his own children. His convictions drew sentences 
totaling 495 days in jail.

The troubles of Lundowski's alleged victims stood out, even in the Eskimo 
villages of western Alaska, which have some of the highest rates of 
alcoholism and drug abuse, domestic violence and suicide in the world.

"They are probably the ones I arrest the most," says Theresa Kobuk, Packy's 
niece and St. Michael's public safety officer for the last seven years.

H. Conner Thomas, a criminal defense attorney in Nome, says he often 
wonders why the men of St. Michael Island seemed to have "more than their 
fair share of significant problems" with the law.

"This may be an explanation," he says.

Packy Kobuk was one of the only Eskimos to talk openly about what had 
happened. He said he spoke about the alleged abuse with at least nine 
priests and one nun. On three occasions, he said, he brought it up with 
Bishop Michael Joseph Kaniecki, who came to the village annually to perform 
the confirmation ceremonies.

"He would just change the subject," Kobuk said. "He didn't want me to bring 
it up."

The prelate has since died and church officials said they have no record of 
any complaints about Lundowski.

One summer evening in 2004, Kobuk saw a television news report about a 
sexual abuse case against a popular Nome priest. For the first time since 
the Catholic Church molestation scandals had erupted, someone was taking on 
the Alaska church.

Kobuk said he began to consider taking legal action himself.

"I wanted everyone to know that there was a lot of us involved, and the 
abuse happened out here too, and not just in the cities," Kobuk said.

The first lawyer he approached turned the case down, citing a conflict of 
interest. The rejection hit him hard.

He said he rode his four-wheel Honda ATV to a remote beach where a grizzly 
bear had been spotted and he followed its tracks in the sand.

"I didn't want to kill myself," Kobuk said. "I wanted an animal to do it."

After a few hours of walking and crying, he had a change of heart.

"I was saying the rosary on the way back," he recalled. "I didn't want that 
bear to eat me."

A week later, Kobuk saw an advertisement in the Nome Nugget: "Did You Know 
Joseph C. Lundowski, Also Known as Brother Joe or Deacon Joe?"

The ad read, in part: "You may be able to help several children who were 
possibly abused. Any information, no matter how small, can help a child 
seek justice and healing."

Kobuk called the number at the bottom of the ad, placed by attorney Ken Roosa.

A former state sex crimes and federal prosecutor, Roosa signed up his first 
client in Alaska's clergy sexual-abuse scandal in 2002. Shortly afterward, 
he was swamped with calls from others who said they had been abused. He 
brought in John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney who had helped negotiate a 
record $100-million settlement for sexual-abuse suits against the Diocese 
of Orange County.

Since then, 85 Alaska natives from 13 villages have filed claims against 
the church for alleged abuse by six priests and two lay missionaries from 
1956 to 1988.

The flood of allegations has led to speculation that the Eskimo settlements 
were a "dumping ground" for abusive priests and lay workers affiliated with 
the Jesuit order, which supplied priests and bishops to the Fairbanks diocese.

"It's like the French Foreign Legion — you join rather than go to prison," 
says Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who is an authority on clergy 
sexual abuse and has served as an expert witness in hundreds of cases, 
including those in the Eskimo villages. "I was absolutely convinced this 
happened in Alaska."

Father John D. Whitney, chief of the Jesuits' Oregon Province, which 
includes Alaska, denied that known deviants were shipped there. To the 
contrary, Jesuit literature portrayed Alaska as "the world's most difficult 
mission," a prestigious assignment for the most courageous and faithful 

"They weren't in exile," Whitney said. "They were looked on as people who 
were blazing the trail for faith."

Initially, all of the Stebbins and St. Michael men wanted to remain 
anonymous, agreeing to file suits only under the legal pseudonym "James 
Doe." That changed when Kobuk came forward and encouraged others to go 
public as he had.

"I wanted the priests to know they had hurt us," he said, "and not just a 
bunch of James Does."

Now the men must prove their claims. As victims of clergy sexual abuse 
across the country have learned, reconstructing events that occurred 
decades ago in secret is a daunting task. For the Eskimos, the job was 
complicated by the church's initial insistence that there was no record 
that Lundowski had ever volunteered for the church.

The villagers and their attorneys dug through church archives, family photo 
albums and old letters looking for evidence.

Roosa came across a grainy copy of a 1975 church newsletter that listed 
participants in a training program for deacons in the Diocese of Fairbanks. 
It included a photo of a bald man with horn-rimmed glasses. The caption 
read: "Joe Lundowski, 59 yrs., Stebbins."

This was proof that the church had trained Lundowski as a deacon and knew 
he was serving in Stebbins.

In the same file, Roosa found a 1965 letter by a senior Jesuit stating that 
the church "should have gotten rid of [Lundowski] a long time ago."

The letter was written three years before Lundowski arrived in St. Michael 
by Father Jules M. Convert, then in charge of the Jesuits in Alaska, to 
Father Jack Gurr, chancellor to the bishop of Fairbanks. Convert began by 
asking for a shipment of food for his men and more nails to complete the 
building of a village church, but most of the letter was devoted to his 
concern about Lundowski.

Convert expressed dismay that the bishop in Fairbanks, Theodore Boileau, 
had moved Lundowski from one village to another after receiving 
"complaints" about his conduct.

Convert described Lundowski as a church volunteer and wrote that he had 
forbidden him to use the title "brother" because "it greatly confused the 

In his reply, Gurr questioned "why the Mission Superior (i.e., yourself) 
cannot give 'guidance' to [Jesuit priests and volunteers] on such matters. 
What would you do if it involved a woman? 
 You should try to bring the 
scandal to end

Convert replied that he didn't have the authority to remove Lundowski, and 
that only the bishop could do so.

"He's a lay volunteer, sent by the bishop to Hooper Bay against what he 
knew to be our thinking of the fellow. I happen to know he's a possible 
cause of trouble, so I refer him and the case to the proper [church] 
authorities, for whatever action they see fit to take

There is no evidence that church authorities investigated the allegations. 
Convert himself now stands accused of molesting 20 Eskimo children.

An additional piece of evidence against Lundowski came from one of his 
alleged victims. The man, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is 
serving a prison sentence for rape in Alaska, gave the plaintiffs' lawyers 
a letter Lundowski had written to him in 1993.

The inmate, who asked to remain anonymous, told attorneys that he wrote 
Lundowski to describe the emotional turmoil he had suffered as a result of 
the missionary's molestations.

In a handwritten letter with a postmark from Chicago, Lundowski replied: 
"Your letter came to me as a shock and sadden me as to your condition. It 
goes without saying that if I am in anyway to blame for your illness, I 

"I pray to God who relieves all illness to comfort you and to restore you 
to perfect health. Since I left Alaska and came [to Chicago] to work, I 
have accepted the Lord in a real and personal manner 
. I too have 
suffered. Two years ago I had a heart attack with a stroke and still have 
limited use of my legs and arms. My prayer for myself every day is for Him 
to come and take me. I don't write this for sympathy, but to let you see 
the Lord punishes us in his own ways."

Lundowski spent the final decade of his life as the night switchboard 
operator at a Christian rescue mission on Chicago's South Side. He died in 

Officials of the Diocese of Fairbanks and the Jesuits' Oregon Province — 
the two defendants in the Lundowski suits — have asked a Superior Court 
judge to throw out the claims.

In legal papers, they argue that the statute of limitations on the 
allegations has run out, and that Lundowski was an unauthorized volunteer 
not under the supervision of the diocese or the Jesuits.

None of the missionary's 28 accusers in St. Michael and Stebbins — nor the 
dozen who have filed suit from other villages in which Lundowski previously 
served — has received a settlement offer.

Bishop of Fairbanks Donald Kettler said the church must find a way to help 
any victims of abuse, but that money is a problem for his cash-strapped 
missionary diocese.

Whitney, head of the Jesuits' Oregon Province, said that "we're not 
culpable for the actions of Mr. Lundowski, who was never a Jesuit. We have 
a moral responsibility in our role as priests to be part of the 
reconciliation work of Christ."

Whitney said that reconciliation and healing would come in a relationship 
with God, and not in a courtroom.

"We've remained faithful to the people in the villages," Whitney said. "We 
haven't withdrawn or run away. We want to be companions in their pain and 
healing. We want to know how we can help."

On most Sunday mornings now, the Catholic church in St. Michael is nearly 

Packy Kobuk says he longs to go to church but cannot overcome the feeling 
that the elders there have turned their backs on him twice — once when he 
was a child and again now.

If the weather is right, he takes long strolls through the village during 
the church service. On his walks, he sometimes recites the Lord's Prayer or 
the Apostle's Creed or another of the prayers he learned in his youth, many 
from Joseph Lundowski.

To the Virgin Mary, he offers his own prayer.

"We need your help," he tells her.

He goes on to pray that wrongdoers will be exposed.

"I want everyone to know what happened to us here," he said. "It's been 
covered up too long. And I also pray for forgiveness. That's the hardest part." 

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