Father Albert Kostelnick
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Suspended from ministry: 2002
Permanently restricted: 2005
Assigned as follows:
- 1954-1956: All Saints Chapel (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1956: St. John the Evangelist (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1956-1982: Cardinal Dougherty High School (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1956-1982: St. John of the Cross (Roslyn, PA)
- 1982-1997: St. Mark (Bristol, PA)
- 1997-2002: Assumption B.V.M. (Feasterville, PA)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Father Albert Kostelnick:
Father Albert Kostelnick was the subject of a staggering 16 allegations of sexual abuse during his ministry, yet the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did nothing in response. The the Philadelphia 2005 Grand Jury Report examined the matter as a case study in the Archdiocese’s patterns of covering up allegations to protect its image at the expense of countless victims.
- THE 1987 POLICE REPORT AND THE 1988 REPORT FROM A SUBORDINATE PRIEST
In July 1988, an associate priest at St. Mark told the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that he was concerned about Kostelnick’s “alleged problems with fondling of children.” He referred to a 1987 police investigation into an allegation that Kostelnick fondled an 8 year old girl. Charges were never filed and the priest worried that he was “still imprudent in his actions,” as he recently saw Father Albert Kostelnick “fondling a young girl in the rectory.”
A later memorandum refers to warnings from police officers to Kostelnick that he must “desist” in his misconduct even though he was not criminally charged, which is, of course, not unusual when the only witness is the child making the allegation.
No additional action was taken by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia even though Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was personally informed about the associate priest’s reports.
What the associate priest did not know – but which the Vice Chancellor and Cardinal did know – is that Kostelnick’s secret archive file contained reference to two incidents occurring prior to the 1987 incident with the 8 year old girl, so they were now aware of four girls who said they were the victim of Kostelnick’s misconduct.
- A DIFFERENT PRIEST RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT MULTIPLE YOUNG GIRLS
In 1992, another priest at St. Mark reported to the Chancery that he was concerned about Kostelnick’s behavior with young girls in the parish. He reported that two mothers in the parish reported “several instances…of inappropriate gestures of affection toward young girls.” One woman’s two daughters – an 8th and a 9th grader – quit their jobs at the rectory because of Kostelnick’s “abusive behavior.” The second woman reported that she knew of a family that took their child out of the St. Mark’s grammar school because of “inappropriate gestures of affection.” She also knew that the daughter of parish cemetery’s caretaker had quit her rectory job for “similar reasons.”
This second priest also reported that he personally witnessed “inappropriate gestures of affection” between Father Albert Kostelnick and young girls.
The women asked the priest not to identify them to Chancery officials because they were afraid of retribution. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s response was to order the parish priest to tell them no action would be taken unless they made formal reports to the Chancery personally. When they too scared to do so, no more action was taken. Apparently it was of no consequence that two fellow priests also reported witnesses inappropriate physical contact with young girls.
According to the grand jury, “the consequences of [the Archdiocese’s] inaction were predictable. When finally confronted in 2004, Father Albert Kostelnick admitted that he continued to fondle young girls who worked in the parish rectories where he lived after Cardinal Bevilacqua left him in place following the complaints in 1992.”
- THE REPORTS CONTINUE BUT KOSTELNICK IS ALLOWED TO RETIRE VOLUNTARILY
In late 2001, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia received yet another complaint about Kostelnick. This time, a 44 year old woman said that she was abused as a 13 year old girl in 1970. She worked in the rectory of St. John of the Cross serving meals to the priests. Kostelnick, who was in residence, generally ate alone on Sunday mornings, which is when he abused her. As an adult, she learned that he did the same thing to her two younger sisters as well.
Three months later, the Archdiocese quietly suspended Kostelnick and sent him for a psychological evaluation at Villa St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Since Kostelnick denied “acting out” with anyone since 1980s, he was cleared to return to ministry. Apparently, his treatment professionals were never told about the reports from the second priest in the 1990s.
Bevilacqua opted to allow Kostelnick to remain in ministry until June 2002, when he could retire in good standing.
However, in April 2002, yet another woman (the ninth) came forward to report that she was abused at St. John the Cross in the 1970s while she worked in the rectory. She was 11 years old at the time. She also gave the names of two friends who were abused in similar circumstances.
The woman’s mother also told Archdiocese officials that a second daughter made similar allegations, bringing the number of known or suspected victims to 12. She also told officials that she personally told the St. John’s pastor, Fr. Arthur Nugent, about the abuse at the time it was happening.
In a face-to-face meeting, former Secretary for Clergy, Msgr. William Lynn, told the mother and daughter that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia intended to allow Kostelnick to remain in ministry until his retirement a few months later. He then told them that she was only the second person to come forward, but he would use her allegation as leverage to ask him to retire soon. Of course, that meant he lied about the number of allegations known to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at that time.
Kostelnick retired on May 1, 2002, about six weeks earlier than scheduled. He moved into Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.
Within two years, another four women had come forward to make similar allegations against Kostelnick. In 2004, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s internal review board determined that at least eight of the allegations were credible (seemingly all of the 2002-2004 reports) and recommended that the retired priest’s faculties be permanently restricted.
All told, at least sixteen girls and women had accused Kostelnick of sexual abuse by the time the 2005 grand jury report was published.
In lieu of a canonical trial to determine whether he should remain a priest, Kostelnick agreed to live his remaining days in “supervised prayer and penance” in 2004. The extent of his supervision is unknown.
Kostelnick resided at Villa St. Joseph, where other accused priests who accepted a life of “prayer and penance” reside, from the time he was suspended in 2002 until his death in 2009.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.