Newly suspended Catholic priest was named as sexual misconduct suspect by police in 2018
By Cole Waterman
May 23, 2019
|The Rev. Dennis Kucharczyk|
A priest recently suspended by the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw due to an allegation of sexual misconduct was named more than a year ago in sealed police affidavits as a suspect in a misconduct case involving a minor, documents show.
The documents, unsealed this month, name the Rev. Dennis Kucharczyk, who the Saginaw Diocese said in press release on Tuesday, May 21, was placed administrative leave from priestly ministry on Sunday, May 19.
The diocese took the action after it said it received information from law enforcement regarding an allegation of misconduct involving a minor that occurred “many years ago.”
A 19-page affidavit authored by Saginaw Township Police Detective Scott Jackson and dated March 22, 2018, states police sought personnel records of Kucharczyk, three other priests, and one deacon as part of their investigation.
The contents of the affidavit was first reported by The Detroit News on Wednesday.
The affidavit was used to request warrants for police to search the home of then-Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, the Saginaw diocese’s headquarters — both in Saginaw Township — and the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.
In the affidavit, Jackson wrote that on March 21, 2018, a fellow detective interviewed an adult woman who alleged Kucharczyk “would constantly hug her and kiss her on the cheek, hold her hand in the parking lot, and give her small gifts when he would return from trips” when she was a student in first or second grade at Blessed Sacrament in Midland. The diocese has said Kucharczyk was an associate pastor at that location from July 1988 to June 1991.
The woman said on one occasion, Kucharczyk called her into an unoccupied classroom with the lights off and made her sit on his lap and then put his arms around her waist and put his hands on her inner thighs, the police affidavit states.
The woman said that “as the years went on Dennis Kucharczyk’s behavior continued, including writing letters to her which she described as ‘gushy and lovey’ type letters, as well as emails and text messages,” Jackson wrote.
Kucharczyk also repeatedly told her if she were to run away from home, she could stay with him at the rectory, the woman told police.
Kucharczyk later officiated the woman’s wedding and kissed her on the lips that day, the affidavit states. She later confronted him via email, prompting him to reply that he did nothing inappropriate. He also requested to meet with her in person, Jackson wrote.
According to the affidavit, the woman eventually met with Kucharczyk, only for him to “immediately put his arm around her and stated, ‘Boy, what did we get ourselves into?’”
The woman told police she reported the behavior to a nun in 2010 and the nun assured her she would forward the allegations to a review board. The woman never heard back from the church on the issue, she said.
Kucharczyk has not been charged with a crime.
Of the other four clergymen named in the document, one is the Rev. Robert J. “Father Bob” DeLand Jr. DeLand, 72, was criminally prosecuted in March of this year and was suspended by the Saginaw Diocese after his first arrest on sexual assault charges on Feb. 25, 2018.
Another of those named in the document is the Rev. Ronald J. Dombrowski, who the diocese suspended in March 2018 as a “precautionary measure” after someone told the diocese Dombrowski sexually abused them as a minor. No criminal charges have been filed against Dombrowski.
The other two men have not been criminally charged, nor are their names among the 22 the diocese has disclosed as having been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct.
The affidavit was reviewed and signed by Saginaw County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark J. Gaertner, who told MLive the matter is now part of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office’s ongoing probe of all seven Catholic dioceses in the state. Saginaw County District Judge Terry L. Clark signed the affidavit and authorized the warrants.
MLive was unable to reach the diocese or staff at the Attorney General’s Office immediately for comment.
In a Feb. 21 press conference, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office had received more than 300 complaints of sexual misconduct involving Catholic clergy since predecessor Bill Schuette announced the investigation in August.
As part of that investigation, law enforcement in October executed search warrants on each diocese in Saginaw, Detroit, Marquette, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Gaylord, and Grand Rapids. Nessel said she anticipated the investigation would take “in the neighborhood of two years.”
Nessel encouraged victims or their loved ones to report clergy abuse through a hotline (1-844-324-3374) or an online tip form mi.gov/clergyabuse. At the same time, she urged people not to bring their abuse complaints to the church itself.
Kucharczyk was ordained in 1985 and has most recently served as the pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, which includes St. Mary Church in Hemlock, Sacred Heart Church in Merrill and St. Patrick Church in Ryan.
The church has prohibited Kucharczyk from having contact with anyone younger than 21. As such, he must not visit school properties or participate in school and parish activities and functions. He must also refrain from wearing clerical garb, refrain from the exercise of public ministry, and may not present himself publicly as a priest while the allegation is internally investigated.