|FBI Arrests Jesuit for Alleged Sex Abuse: Society of Jesus Official Denies Loyola Connection Despite Circulating Claims
By Yara Shams
November 30, 2011
Members of a support group for victims of clergy misconduct rallied at Loyola's Lake Shore Campus following the recent arrest of a Jesuit priest in Chicago who allegedly sexually abused a child.
The support group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), suspected that the Rev. Richard James Kurtz was living at the Lake Shore Campus at the time of his Nov. 21 arrest by the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force. Kurtz is being charged with two felonies for a decade-old incidence of alleged misconduct: sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, and attempted sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, authorities said.
SNAP had seen Kurtz's residence listed as being near the Loyola community, said the organization's president Barbara Blaine, one of the four SNAP members who passed out fliers at Loyola's entrance on N. Sheridan Road.
"The idea [of rallying outside Loyola] was to try to reach out to anyone that may have been hurt by his crimes or has any knowledge of what's going on, to encourage them to get help and go to the police," said Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director.
A spokesman for the Jesuits, however, said Kurtz was actually living at a residential complex for Jesuits in Lincoln Park, where he was arrested.
"He was not affiliated with Loyola at all," said Jeremy Langford, director of communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus, the formal name for the Jesuits. "Kurtz was not living in any Loyola University facility."
It remains unclear what, if any, connection he had to other priests from Loyola, which is run by the Society of Jesus.
The Phoenix tried to reach the university's president, the Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J, but his secretary referred The Phoenix to Loyola University Chicago's Jesuit community. The rector then referred The Phoenix to the Chicago-Detroit Province office, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Jesuit priests and institutions in the area, including Loyola University Chicago.
Kurtz, 67, was arrested last week for alleged sexual abuse of a minor roughly a decade ago in Colorado, said Special Agent Frank Bochte, a spokesman for the FBI's Chicago office.
The abuse reportedly happened in Douglas County, Colo., said Sgt. Ron Hanavan of the Douglas County sheriff's office.
At the time, Kurtz was a chemistry teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. The priest "was on a personal trip" with the victim at the time of the alleged abuse, according to a press release by the all-boys high school.
It wasn't immediately clear how Kurtz and the boy knew each other, where the minor was from and why they were in Colorado.
Either way, Kurtz was removed from his teaching position at the high school after the incident first came to light, according to officials. The school reported the alleged misconduct to Michigan's Family Independence Agency, which is responsible for investigating the claims and then reporting their findings to the appropriate criminal authorities, Langford stated.
The Society of Jesus' Detroit Province removed him from active ministry and the province has monitored him ever since, Langford said.
Following the merger of the Detroit and Chicago provinces, reported abuse cases were reviewed internally, including the one involving Kurtz. The Jesuits then decided to report the incident to Colorado police.
The investigation, which is still ongoing according to Hanavan, led to an arrest warrant for Kurtz. He was jailed in Chicago on a $100,000 bond. Hanavan also said Kurtz will probably be handed over to Colorado authorities in the near future, but was unsure of when exactly that would happen.
SNAP hopes that in light of this arrest, church officials - Jesuits included - will become more transparent about sex crimes that have been committed by members of the clergy.
"If you have a known predator in the area, people deserve to know the truth about these predators," Dorris said. "We feel that the Jesuits who preach social justice need to live up to that, and need to be open and honest about what has taken place."
Kurtz isn't the first Chicagoland Jesuit to come under fire for alleged sexual abuse. Multiple priests with ties to Loyola have been accused of sexual misconduct in recent years.
One such Jesuit is Rev. Larry Reuter, who worked at the university for more than a decade until he was removed from active ministry in the 2000s. According to published reports, Reuter admitted to having an "inappropriate relationship" with a teenage student before his time at Loyola.
Rev. Daniel O'Connell, also reported to have been working at the University for some time, was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman in Missouri.
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