Priest Banished for Sex Abuse Now Works with Pregnant Teens
By Beth Dalbey
May 9, 2016
A priest who was banned from public ministry while serving parishes in Royal Oak and Ferndale in 2009 after allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old girl he was counseling in the 1970s resurfaced is again working with teens at a Catholic center in Eastpointe — for now.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit is asking the Rev. Kenneth Kaucheck to step down from his position as development director of Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Residence, which he co-founded a year ago with a Catholic nun, The Macomb Daily reports.
Gianna House, located in the former convent adjacent to St. Veronica Catholic Church in Eastpointe, takes in pregnant girls and women, and assists them and any children they may have.
If Kaucheck doesn’t voluntarily resign, he could be removed under canon law because his position at Gianna House “violates the restrictions placed on his ministry in 2009,” John Kohn, a spokesman for the archdiocese told the Detroit Free Press.
“We assert that he should not be allowed to continue in this position." Kohn said.
The investigation that caused Kaucheck’s banishment involved allegations that he abused a 16-year-old he was counseling at Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson in 1976. The teen’s father lodged a complaint with the lead priest at Guardian Angels, according to a published report.
At the time, the church’s response was to transfer Kaucheck to Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn, where he later became campus minister at Gabriel Richard Center.
But in 2009, the victim complained to the archdiocese after she had randomly encountered Kaucheck in a doctor’s office, and the investigation was reopened.
Among those speaking with investigators was Elizabeth Sayraf, a former receptionist at Guardian Angels and now an Ann Arbor psychologist, who said the teen had shown her plane tickets she and the priest had used for a trip to Florida. Kaucheck would have been in his mid-20s at the time.
Clawson police referred their findings to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review. However, no charges were filed, according to the published report, because the teen was 16, the age of sexual consent.
Between his removal from the Clawson parish and his assignments in St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak and St. James Parish in Ferndale, Kaucheck, who currently lives in Bloomfield Hills, served in a variety of positions . He was grievance clerk reviewing annulment cases for the Archdiocesan Metropolitan (Marriage) Tribunal, and also was a pastor, associate pastor or temporary pastor at parishes in Troy, Grosse Pointe Woods and Detroit.
“Troubling News, Certainly”
Gianna House’s board chairman, Dr. Robert Welch, told The Macomb Daily he was unaware of the archdiocese’s efforts to remove Kaucheck, and said there hasn’t been anything in his conduct that would raise suspicions.
“This is obviously shocking news to me,” said Welch, who has worked with Kaucheck for about five years. “This is troubling news, certainly.”
Groups that work with survivors of sexual abuse support Kaucheck’s removal, but not necessarily the archdiocese.
“It’s horribly inappropriate,” Debbie McPeek, an executive with Turning Point in Mount Clemens, told the Macomb newspaper. “To put someone (with Kaucheck’s background) in a position of trust is horrendous.”
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement last month that it’s inappropriate that "a priest who was ousted because he molested a girl now works for a nonprofit that reportedly helps girls."
"It's inexcusable for any nonprofit to hire a credibly accused child molesting cleric. A simple Google search would have shown that Fr. Ken is potentially dangerous and should never be given any position or title that confers respect, much less gives him access to vulnerable people,” Clohessy said in the statement.
He also noted a pattern among church officials to allow banished priests to serve in other roles, some of them involving children, and called out both the Archdiocese of Detroit and Archbishop Allen Vigneron for not being more vigilant in alerting Catholics about Kaucheck, who receives a salary from the church for his job with Gianna House.
Welch was unaware of Kaucheck’s past in part because of “Vigneron’s irresponsible secrecy,” Clohessy said.
Priest Doesn't Work Directly with Teens
However, Sister Mary Diane Masson, who co-founded Gianna House with Kaucheck, told The Macomb Daily the priest isn’t working with the girls and women who come there and typically doesn’t work from its facilities. His job is to raise money for Gianna House.
“He’s not doing anything with the girls,” Masson, who received permission from her order, the Felician Sisters, to start the residential program.
“He hasn’t been proven guilty,” said Masson, who has known Kaucheck since 1990. “Innocent until proven guilty.”
Kaucheck, who didn’t return requests from The Macomb Daily and the Free Press for comment, has never spoken publicly about the abuse allegations that led to his banishment from public ministry.