U-d Jesuit Says It Reacted Promptly to 2001 Abuse Allegations against Priest

By David Jesse
Detroit Free Press
November 24, 2011|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

Matt Jatczak, 32, protests outside the Archdiocese of Detroit headquarters. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanded the archdiocese reveal more details Wednesday about a priest who was arrested Monday on molestation charges. / Brian Kaufman/Detroit Free Press

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 was arrested Monday on charges of molesting a boy out of the state a decade ago while he was employed as a chemistry teacher at the Detroit 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 and was in the Cook County Jail awaiting possible extradition to Colorado, where the assault allegedly 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 in front of the Archdiocese of Detroit by several members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Matt Jatczak, the Detroit leader, said 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 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."

But Jatczak said final authority rests with the archdiocese and that pushing the responsibility off on a religious order is 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 said in a statement.

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or


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