Priest Is 22nd in Saginaw Diocese ‘credibly Accused’ of Sexual Misconduct
By Cole Waterman
May 23, 2019
Another priest in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is accused of sexual misconduct, adding to those previously named by the diocese.
The Rev. Dennis Kucharczyk is the 22nd clergyman the diocese has named as having had credible allegations of misconduct made against them. Many of those previously named are deceased.
Kucharczyk does not face any criminal charges and law enforcement officials have not said if they are specifically investigating him.
Representatives from both the Michigan State Police and Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office told MLive their agencies were not involved in the Kucharczyk matter. The Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office referred all inquiries to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, which is conducting a review of sex-abuse allegations dating back decades in all Michigan Catholic dioceses.
“Any allegation that a priest has committed these kinds of criminal acts is within the scope of our investigation,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications director for the Attorney General’s Office.
The Saginaw Diocese said in press release on Tuesday, May 21, it placed Kucharczyk on administrative leave from priestly ministry on Sunday, May 19, after it received information from law enforcement regarding an allegation of misconduct involving a minor that occurred “many years ago.”
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.
The church action against Kucharczyk follows the criminal prosecution in March of Robert J. “Father Bob” DeLand Jr., who was suspended by the Saginaw Diocese after his first arrest on sexual assault charges on Feb. 25, 2018.
In March 2018, the diocese also said it had suspended 72-year-old Rev. Ronald J. Dombrowski 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 diocese in April 2018 named five clerics permanently removed from ministry since 2002 due to what the church said were credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors:
Then, on Nov. 21, the diocese released the names of 13 more clergymen credibly accused of sexually abusing children:
· Martin Ignatius Kalahar, retired Feb. 1, 1966, died April 13, 1966. Allegation made posthumously.
· James Aloysius Mulvey, died Nov. 7, 1959. Allegation made posthumously.
· Neil Francis O'Connor, retired Sept. 16, 1966, died March 8, 1989, age 81. Allegation made posthumously
· Thomas William Ryan, died Jan. 25, 1975.
· Raymond John Pilarski, permanently removed from ministry Oct. 9, 2007, died Oct. 17, 2017.
· Robert Gordon Smith, previously removed from public ministry, died June 24, 1980.
· Joseph Szarek, removed from ministry in Saginaw October 1958, but later served in Diocese of Albany. Died July 14, 2012.
· James A. Marron, posthumous allegation, died 1987.
· Francis McHugh, posthumous allegation.
· Richard Thomas Szafranski, removed from ministry in April 2006.
· Ronald Vincent Gronowski, permanently removed from public ministry 2002.
· Terrence Andrew Raymond, deceased 1986.
Gronowski, 76, and Szafranski, 70, are still living.
In March, the diocese announced it had learned of new sexual abuse allegations against Francis M. Landwermeyer, a former Jesuit priest who served as principal of Nouvel Catholic Central High School from 1985-88. Landwermeyer was removed from ministry in 2010 and left the Jesuit order and priesthood in 2011. He died in 2018.
The diocese’s statement regarding Landwermeyer followed a one-man protest outside the diocese’s main office. The man said he was a Catholic sex-abuse survivor from Missouri and part of a survivor’s group known as SNAP.
The Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office handled the prosecution of DeLand, 72, who was charged with several counts related to the alleged abuse of two teens and one young man. A jury on March 21 acquitted DeLand on some of the charges, but he later pleaded no contest to three charges. On April 25, Saginaw County Circuit Judge Darnell Jackson sentenced DeLand to two to 15 years in prison.
Afterward, MLive submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to prosecutors seeking copies of audio recordings made by one of DeLand’s teen victims, who was wearing a wire supplied by police, while in the priest’s presence. Prosecutors provided MLive with recordings, which span several hours and police said were recorded on five days in February 2017.
The audio features DeLand, who did not know he was being recorded, telling the teen he loves him, encouraging him to watch pornography and tell him about it, offering to buy him cigarettes, and saying he would get him intoxicated.
|Robert J. DeLand Jr.'s prison mug shot, taken May 3, 2019.|
DeLand is currently incarcerated at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson.
In August 2018, then-Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced his office had launched an investigation into the state’s seven Catholic dioceses. In a Feb. 21 press conference, current Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office had received more than 300 complaints of sexual misconduct involving Catholic clergy.
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.
“We’re strongly urging victims, or anyone who knows a victim, to contact the state’s team of certified law enforcement investigators by calling this number,” Nessel said.