|Rockford Diocese Defends Priest Accused of Abuse
By Corina Curry
Rockford Register Star
June 17, 2008
A support group for survivors of sexual abuse on Tuesday accused a Roman Catholic priest of molesting a Colorado teenager more than 30 years ago, a charge that was immediately dismissed by a Rockford diocese official as "completely false."
Tensions flared at the late morning media event held on the grounds of the Diocese of Rockford as Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Penny Weigert, director of communications for the diocese, defended their positions. Blaine, who lives in Chicago, insisted the allegations from a Colorado man are credible, and Weigert countered that the priest, Monsignor Michael Kurz, is innocent of the claims. She called him "a most faithful servant with a spotless record."
Kurz, who came to Rockford 10 years ago, serves as the Judicial Vicar of Diocesan Tribunal, working with married and divorced couples to resolve troubled relationships. He also serves as an associate priest at St. Rita's Parish.
Weigert, who serves as spokesman for the diocese, said Kurz will not comment on the allegations.
Kurz is named in a lawsuit filed last month against the Bishop of Pueblo, the Roman Catholic Church's diocese of southern Colorado, in Pueblo County Court. The Plaintiff is identified only as John Doe No. 21, born in 1962.
The lawsuit alleges that Kurz sexually abused John Doe 21 when he was a boy attending Christ the King Church in Pueblo. It states that the abuse occurred at the church and on outings. The abuse started in 1976, the suit states, and continued for a couple or years until John Doe 21 was a freshman or sophomore in high school.
Blaine said the purpose of Monday's announcement was to "sound the alarm" — to warn Rockford residents of the allegations against Kurz and call for his removal from the local diocese.
"We need to protect the children and make sure that no children are harmed," Blaine said.
John Doe 21 didn't come forward until now, Blaine said, because he was traumatized by the events.
The diocese has no intention of removing Kurz, Weigert said. Pueblo and Rockford dioceses conducted internal investigations into the claims, she said, and unanimously dismissed them as false.
The diocese learned that Kurz was not assigned to the parish named in the lawsuit at the time that John Doe 21 claims he was abused and wasn't yet an ordained priest at the time of another allegation, Weigert said.
Staff writer Corina Curry can be reached at 815-987-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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