Former Franciscan Brother Living in Dewitt Named by Second Man As Sexual Abuser
By Megan Banta
Lansing State Journal
June 8, 2020
DEWITT – Two religious orders deny any knowledge of sexual abuse by a former Franciscan brother living in DeWitt who is now named in two lawsuits.
Martin Rusnak filed a lawsuit in New Jersey earlier this year naming Kurt Munn as an abuser and saying religious leaders enabled Munn for decades.
|An old photo of former Franciscan brother Kurt Munn (Photo: Courtesy Jeff Anderson and Associates)|
In the legal complaint filed in Mercer County, Rusnak says Munn started abusing him in the 1970s.
That abuse has left Rusnak "unable to live a normal life," the lawsuit says.
Rusnak is the second man to name Munn as his abuser in a lawsuit. About two months before Rusnak filed his complaint, Todd Kostrub — who Rusnak identifies as a former neighbor — named Munn as his abuser in a lawsuit also filed in Mercer County.
Both men say the Archdiocese of Trenton and the Franciscan order ignored and enabled Munn's abuse.
Religious leaders have denied any liability for the alleged abuse.
Munn's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Abuse began at 10 years old
Rusnak was a 10-year-old altar boy at Holy Assumption Church in Roebling, New Jersey when Munn started abusing him.
At the time, Munn was head of the altar boys at the church. He also served as a coach and bus driver for the parish school.
The abuse tarnished Rusnak's childhood, the lawsuit says.
Munn abused Kostrub around that same time — for nearly a decade beginning in 1972, when Kostrub was 7 years old.
Kostrub, now in his 50s, showed a State Journal reporter and editor a copy of a 1997 New Jersey State Police report in which Munn admitted to abusing him and more than a dozen other young boys. The report includes a reference to three victims in Michigan.
According to a State Journal article published June 30, 1980, Munn lived in both DeWitt and Roebling while he was still involved with a branch of the Franciscan Friars, a Catholic-based religious order. Munn was not an ordained priest.
Munn didn't mention Rusnak or any of the other men in his apology to Kostrub.
Abuse caused nightmares, 'self-destructive behavior'
Rusnak has suffered anxiety and depression, "lost his ability to have faith in God and his church," and incurred large sums of medical, hospital and psychiatric expenses because of the abuse, the complaint says.
The abuse also caused nightmares and led Rusnak into "self-destructive behavior patterns," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit lays those outcomes at the feet of both Munn and religious leaders who transferred him between parishes over the years.
Munn told a State Journal reporter in 1980 that he was transferred to New Jersey in 1972 after a "conflict with one of the elder brothers over his extracurricular activities." He returned to a Franciscan retreat in DeWitt around 1979.
More than a decade later, Kostrub told his family about the abuse.
After a conversation with his brother-in-law, who was a New Jersey State Police trooper, Kostrub also reported the abuse to police.
Rusnak said police interviewed him during that investigation.
Police tried to charge Munn, but the statute of limitations had expired.
A few years after that, Munn — no longer a part of the order — bought property in Flushing and lived there briefly before settling back in DeWitt, public records show.
Orders deny liability
The Franciscan order of which Munn was a member said in its response to Kostrub's lawsuit that the New Jersey court lacks jurisdiction.
The order also denies Munn was a member between 1972 and 1982.
The Catholic Diocese of Trenton denies it had any "pre-existing knowledge of the alleged propensities of any persons named" in the lawsuit.
It also says the allegations are not the responsibility of the diocese.
"Munn's actions were outside the course and scope of his employment," the response reads over and over again.