Lawsuit alleges Orchard Lake Schools leader sexually abused, retaliated against male employees

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The chancellor of Orchard Lake Schools is accused of using his authority to engage in a pattern of sexual misconduct with subordinates and retaliation against them after they reported the alleged conduct, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of two John Does, names as defendants Orchard Lake Schools, a Catholic institution that was originally known as the "Polish Seminary," and the Rev. Miroslaw Krol, who oversees the schools' campus, which includes a seminary, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School and a Polish cultural center. 

The suit alleges that Krol pursued the men, allegedly forced himself on them, threatening their livelihoods after they rejected him and then retaliated against one after being reported.

It also alleges Krol's behavior reached the Orchard Lake Schools governing board and the top leader at the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron. But Vigneron allegedly was not interested in discussing the matter when it was brought up by a trustee of Orchard Lake Schools unless the trustee "had first-hand knowledge of the misconduct," according to the suit.

“Our clients are brave men and devout Catholics who have been traumatized by their experiences at Orchard Lake Schools with Fr. Krol,” said Jennifer Salvatore, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

“It is not easy to come forward and report this kind of abuse — particularly within the insular world of the church. Our clients have with great courage and personal sacrifice decided to speak out about their experiences. They hope to help others who may have been victimized in a similar way and to break the cycle of retaliation and cover-up that has gone on for far too long at OLS.”

Miroslaw Krol, Orchard Lake Schools

Through his attorney, Krol denied all the allegations.

"Father Krol unequivocally denies all allegations of misconduct, and looks forward to being vindicated," said Roy H. Henley, a lawyer with the Thrun Law Firm in East Lansing. "He has no other comment at this time."

Steve Gross, chair of the Orchard Lake Schools Board of Regents, said in a statement that Krol was on administrative leave, pending the resolution of the matter.

"In our judgment, these former employees of the Orchard Lake Schools who are asserting these claims while simultaneously seeking to remain anonymous have mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding their terminations," said Gross. "It is important to note all individuals named in the lawsuit are adults. These former employees bringing this employment action did not work with any minors, nor did their roles involve the High School on our campus. We are confident that the facts, in this case, will prevail, that the legal process will determine their claims lack merit, and that we acted appropriately at all times."

Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary is part of the Orchard Lake Schools and is a private, Polish seminary located in the Archdiocese of Detroit but it is not operated by the Detroit archdiocese.

McGrath did not directly respond to the allegation that Vigneron was alerted to Krol's alleged behavior. He said the archbishop is a member on the board of Orchard Lake Schools, due to the nature of his office. Since Krol is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey, his status with the seminary would have to be addressed by Orchard Lake Schools and his status as a priest would need to be directed to the Archdiocese of Newark.

“As it relates to the federal lawsuit filed against the seminary, the Detroit archdiocese takes such complaints seriously and will look into them as vigorously as it is able,” McGrath said.

A native of Poland, Krol has deep ties to the Vatican and exercises power within the local Polish Catholic community, which the suit alleges is why the Orchard Lake Schools Board of Regents had "blinders" on when it appointed him in 2017 despite concerns raised about previous behavior when he was dean and vice rector of SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary.

Krol attended SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary at Orchard Lake for two years before he was ordained a priest in 1999 for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, and serving in various parishes.

In 2006, former Detroit Archbishop Cardinal Adam Maida appointed Krol dean of human formation at SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary. In 2008, he was named vice rector, a position he held for five years.

During this period, while he lived on campus at Orchard Lake Seminary, Krol also kept a room and attended parties at the Sweetest Heart of Mary Church rectory in Detroit, according to the lawsuit.

Witnesses allege Krol and others would engage in sexual activity with seminarians and other misconduct, according to the lawsuit.

After Krol became chancellor for Orchard Lake Schools, he allegedly propositioned one of the John Does, who is married and a devout Catholic, in May 2018 by inviting him to his apartment and asking him to “lay down” with him and “relax” in Krol’s bed, according to the lawsuit.

The man left but Krol allegedly continued to pursue him, threatening his job if he did not see him, according to the lawsuit.

"Fearful of losing his job, John Doe 2 went to Krol’s apartment," the lawsuit said. "While he was there, Krol lunged at John Doe 2, leaping into his lap. Krol forced himself onto John Doe 2 and began kissing his neck and lips and trying to put his hand down John Doe 2’s pants. Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him."

The lawsuit alleges that John Doe 2 pushed Krol away and left his apartment, but Krol's pursuit continued. The alleged victim tried to avoid being alone with Krol, but he alleges several months later, Krol assaulted him again when he invited him to his apartment to talk about the future of the institution's mission. Krol allegedly had several drinks, left the room and then returned and sat next to John Doe 2.

"(Krol) put his hand on John Doe 2’s leg, and began slowly moving it up his thigh," the lawsuit said. "At the same time, Krol reached his other hand into his own pants and began to masturbate. Krol began asking John Doe 2 to have sex with him and telling John Doe 2 that he loved him."

John Doe 2 rejected Krol again but said he got emails and texts the next day.

"Krol alternated between threatening John Doe 2 and claiming that (Krol) was protecting John Doe 2’s job security, saying things like, 'As long as I am here you are safe,' according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Krol allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with John Doe 1 during invitations to Krol’s on-campus apartment, where social gatherings were held and alcohol was involved, according to the lawsuit. John Doe attempted to leave early, the lawsuit said, to avoid being alone with Krol.

During one gathering, John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 sat next to each other. John Doe 1 got a FaceTime call from a friend in New Jersey whom Krol also knew. Krol allegedly "lunged" into John Doe 1's lap under the pretense of wanting to be part of the call.

"While doing so, he shoved his hand down John Doe 1’s pants and touched his penis," the lawsuit said. "John Doe 1 — horrified — forcefully pushed Krol away. The next day, Krol commented to John Doe 1 on the interaction and on how much 'fun' he had had the night before," including comments about his physical stature.

Krol continued to harass John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 both verbally and physically in similar ways, the lawsuit alleges.

Both John Does began telling others about the incidents with Krol, the lawsuit said.

"In August 2019, a member of the OLS Board of Regents who had been close to many seminarians and priests resigned over Krol’s conduct, including his sexual misconduct and verbal abuse towards seminarians," the lawsuit claims. "That board member put her concerns about Fr. Krol in writing to the board."

This board member also reached out to the Archdiocese of Detroit.

"She did so in an attempt to share information about Krol’s misconduct with Archbishop Vigneron," the lawsuit said. "The board member was told essentially that Archbishop Vigneron was not interested in discussing these issues with her unless she had first-hand knowledge of the misconduct."

In January, John Doe 2 reported Krol’s alleged sexual harassment to John Roland, a member of the Orchard Lake Board of Regents and vice chairman of the Polish Mission’s Board of Directors. Roland allegedly told John Doe 2 that he had to disclose the information to the entire board of regents, which John Doe 2 gave him permission to do.

"However, when Mr. Roland disclosed John Doe 2’s allegations of sexual harassment, other board members chastised him — suggesting that Mr. Roland should have addressed this issue only with Krol," the lawsuit alleged. "Shortly thereafter, Mr. Roland was removed from the OLS Board."

On Jan. 15, after the board meeting, Todd Covert, chief operating officer of Orchard Lake Schools, spoke with John Doe 2 who told Covert the alleged sexual abuse he had endured by Krol.

"Mr. Covert appeared sympathetic and told John Doe 2 that the board would conduct a thorough investigation of his allegations," the lawsuit claims. "Two days later, however, and without any investigation, John Doe 2 was suddenly terminated from his position."

But the regents did not ask John Doe 2 any questions about Krol’s conduct toward him, the lawsuit said.

"Instead, OLS board vice chair and legal counsel Jeff Stewart simply sent a letter to John Doe 2 falsely accusing him of a variety of criminal and tortious conduct — conduct that was untrue, had never been raised with John Doe 2 previously, and was nowhere mentioned or documented in his personnel file," the lawsuit said.