Group Calls on Archdiocese of Detroit for More Info on Abuse Allegations

By David Jesse
Detroit Free Press
November 23, 2011|head

University of Detroit Jesuit High School says that when abuse allegations against a priest were made in 2001, it acted swiftly to remove him from his teaching duties and active ministry and also contacted Children's Protective Services.

The Rev. Richard J. Kurtz wasn't arrested until Monday on charges of molesting a boy out of the state a decade ago while he was employed as a chemistry teacher at the high school. "We are saddened, and our prayers go out to the victim of the alleged assault," said the Rev. Karl Kiser, the school's president.

Kurtz was arrested in Chicago on Monday and was in the Cook County jail awaiting possible extradition to Colorado, where the alleged assault took place in 2001. He faces felony charges of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault of a male younger than 18.

The Douglas County, Colo., Sheriff's Office said it began investigating in June after the Society of Jesus Chicago-Detroit Province notified it of the allegations. The sheriff's office said Kurtz and his accuser knew each other. But it also said it couldn't say why the two were in Colorado. The office said it couldn't give details about the case because it is "sealed"

News of the arrest sparked a protest Wednesday afternoon in front of the Archdiocese of Detroit by several members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Matt Jatczak, the Detroit leader, said that the archdiocese should help shed more light on the career of Kurtz, including whom he might have come into contact with. "They should encourage everyone who knows anything about this to come forward now," he said.

Ed McGrath, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday that it does not have specific details of Kurtz's record of employment because he worked directly for the Jesuit religious order, which runs the high school. He said SNAP's protest was undertaken with incorrect assumptions.

"This guy didn't work for us. Religious order schools are run by the religious order," he said.

The archdiocese released a statement that said, in part: "Religious orders function in their internal governance separately from the archdiocese or diocese where they are headquartered.. Therefore, a matter involving a religious order cleric is handled by the order, not by the archdiocese. We understand from the statement from the Jesuits that they handled the allegations involving Fr. Kurtz in 2001 as they were required to do by church law. If assistance is requested of the Detroit archdiocese going forward, we will assist them any way we can."

A statement from SNAP's Jatczak says that the final authority rests with the archdiocese and pushing the responsibility off on a religious order is splitting hairs and avoiding responsibility.

"It's terribly upsetting to learn that school and church officials have kept silent for a decade about credible child sex abuse allegations, keeping unsuspecting families in the dark and putting innocent kids at risk," he says in his statement.


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