A Catholic priest removed from churches in metro Detroit after he was accused of sexually abusing a teenager is now the development director of a new Catholic center in Eastpointe he cofounded that counsels pregnant teenagers, prompting calls for him to step down.
The Rev. Kenneth Kaucheck, 69, was banned from public ministry by the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2009 after church officials determined he had sexual misconduct in the 1970s with a 16-year-old girl he was counseling as a priest.
Kaucheck is now a director at the Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Residence, next to St. Veronica Catholic Church in Eastpointe. Opened last year in a former convent, the center takes in teenagers and young women who are pregnant, assisting them and any children they might later have.
The website for Gianna House says it “is a sacred sanctuary for its residents, each of whom deserve to continue the life of her unborn child in an environment imbued with spiritual grace, emotional and social support, and knowledge.” The website says its “Board has been selected by Father Ken Kaucheck and Sister Mary Diane Masson to provide a wide range of ideas and skills.”
Joe Kohn, director of public relations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, told the Free Press last week that Kaucheck’s “position at Gianna House violates the restrictions placed on his ministry in 2009. We assert that he should not be allowed to continue in this position.” The archdiocese and advocates for children who are abused by priests are calling for Gianna House to remove Kaucheck.
Kohn said that Kaucheck could be removed under Catholic canon law.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement last month that it’s disconcerting that “a priest who was ousted because he molested a girl now works for a nonprofit that reportedly helps girls.”
“It’s inexcusable for any nonprofit to hire a credibly accused child molesting cleric. A simple Google search would have shown that Fr. Ken is potentially dangerous and should never be given any position or title that confers respect, much less gives him access to vulnerable people.”
Clohessy said there’s a pattern of Catholic officials allowing suspended priests to resurface in other roles, sometimes around children. Prosecutors declined to press charges against Kaucheck in 2009 because they said the girl was at the age of legal consent.
Clohessy also criticized the archdiocese and Archbishop Allen Vigneron for not being more active in alerting Catholics about Kaucheck.
Clohessy said that “Vigneron’s irresponsible secrecy is one reason” why Gianna House’s board chairman, Dr. Robert Welch, “says he was unaware of the accusation against Fr. Kaucheck and Fr. Kaucheck’s suspension.”
Welch told the Macomb Daily that he was not aware of Kaucheck’s history, calling it “shocking news.” Attempts by the Free Press to reach Welch at local hospitals and offices were unsuccessful.
A woman who answered the phone at Gianna House said she would not comment on Kaucheck and would not leave a message for its officials. E-mails sent to Sister Mary Diane Masson, executive director of Gianna House, and Sister Theresa Mayrand, associate director of Gianna House, were not returned. Kaucheck could not be reached for comment.
Masson and Kaucheck were listed as cofounders of Gianna House on the House website, and Kaucheck was also listed as an ex-officio member of its board of directors.
Kaucheck was ordained in 1976 and had served as a pastor or associate pastor at churches in Clawson, Dearborn, Detroit, Troy, Grosse Pointe Woods and Ferndale, according to information from the archdiocese. In 2008, he was appointed pastor at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak and St. James Parish in Ferndale.
In 2009, a woman came forward with allegations that Kaucheck abused her when he was counseling her at Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson in 1976, when she was a teen.
MINNEAPOLIS — It’s been nearly three years since Minnesota opened a path for lawsuits by victims of long-ago childhood sexual abuse.
In that time, more than 800 people have brought abuse claims against churches, the Boy Scouts, schools, and a children’s theater company. Previously unknown offenders have been exposed.
Two Roman Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy. Lists of credibly accused priests and thousands of documents have been released. And the heightened scrutiny played a part in the downfall of two bishops.
Minnesota’s window, which closes this month, was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and other institutions that are fighting to block similar exemptions to the statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania and New York, citing the effects in Minnesota and other states.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection last year, and the Duluth diocese followed after a jury found it responsible for $4.8 million of an $8.1 million jury award to just one man.
‘‘This law has been one of the most transformative and far-reaching laws that have ever been passed — to not only protect kids in the community but to give survivors who have been hurt a voice and a chance to recover some power,’’ said attorney Jeff Anderson, who has filed the vast majority of the new cases in Minnesota.
As the May 25 deadline approaches, Anderson said his firm has been so busy that he hadn’t kept a running count of cases until asked. More than half of the claims his firm is handling involve abuse by Catholic clergy, he said, and have forced the release of names of more than 200 alleged molesters who hadn’t been publicly accused before.
‘‘For me all I really wanted was a voice,’’ said Lori Stoltz, one of Anderson’s clients, who says she was 11 when a Catholic priest in Willmar began abusing her.
Stoltz, now 56, had approached Anderson about a lawsuit in 2008, only to learn it wasn’t possible, so she jumped at the chance when Minnesota passed its Child Victims Act in 2013.
Her lawsuit against the Rev. David Roney ultimately led to a settlement that forced the Diocese of New Ulm to release documents including a list of credibly accused priests; the list included Roney, but also others whose names hadn’t surfaced.
In St. Paul, the resignations last year of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche came days after the archdiocese was criminally charged with child endangerment over its handling of an abusive priest who ultimately went to prison.
The case wasn’t from an old claim filed under the new law, but it followed increasing pressure resulting from new disclosures in the lawsuits that the law made possible.
The archdiocese turned down an interview request with Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda or other top officials for this story, instead issuing a statement saying the archdiocese is doing everything reasonably possible to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
States have taken two basic approaches to changing their statutes of limitations to allow new cases, said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York.
California, Hawaii, and Delaware, like Minnesota, created temporary one-time windows. Connecticut and Massachusetts raised their age limits for filing claims and made the change retroactive, an approach she said can help more victims since it’s not temporary.
Passing Minnesota’s window took years of patience and persistence against ‘‘fierce opposition from very powerful institutions,’’ recalled Steve Simon, who authored the bill in the state House and is now Minnesota’s secretary of state.
Much of the discussion took place behind the scenes, and some of the Catholic church’s tactics backfired, he said. Simon said he was particularly rankled by lobbying of House members by the Senate chaplain, who was also the archdiocese’s point man for handling allegations of clergy misconduct.
The church’s opposition has been more public in Pennsylvania, where the House voted last month to raise the age limit for those who file cases from 30 to 50 and to make it retroactive. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is urging church members to write their senators in opposition, arguing that ‘‘unfair lawsuits’’ may bankrupt parishes but ‘‘will not provide healing nor protect children.’’ The conference declined an interview request.
Rep. Thomas Caltagirone was disgusted. The veteran Democrat from Reading had been one of the Catholic Church’s staunchest political allies for years, but by March he had hit a breaking point.
A state grand jury had exposed clergy sex abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and a bishop who used an internal payment chart to dole out money, correlating to the degree of the victim’s abuse. This, after Jerry Sandusky and two damning grand jury reports in a decade about predator priests in Philadelphia.
Then came another grand jury bombshell from Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane: Leaders in the Franciscan order had allegedly enabled a friar to abuse scores of children at a Catholic high school in Johnstown and remain free to roam as recently as January 2013.
“Enough is enough,” Caltagirone told his colleagues the day Kane announced charges. “We need to enact new laws that will send the strongest message possible: If you commit heinous crimes against children, if you cover up for pedophiles, if you lurk in the shadows waiting for time to run out, we are coming for you.”
His proclamation marked an unexpected shift from a key legislator long resistant to changing the law. It helped persuade others to pass a House bill that for the first time would let victims abused decades ago sue their attackers and institutions that supervised them.
Now the fate of the measure rests with three influential senators, all from Montgomery County. As they return to session Monday, they largely control whether it lives or dies.
“They have a decision to make,” said Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks), an abuse victim himself and the bill’s fiercest advocate: Support the bill as it stands or, he warned, or “be seen as protecting pedophiles and the institutions that protect them.”
None of the senators – Republicans Stewart Greenleaf and John Rafferty, and Democrat Daylin Leach – would commit himself last week to supporting or opposing the bill.
Greenleaf, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would consider holding a hearing or drafting amendments within two weeks and that the measure could come before the full Senate next month.
“It’s a bill that I would like to support,” he told the Inquirer.
For years, the Catholic Church has vigorously fought efforts to do what Caltagirone urged: make the civil statute of limitations retroactive. The church argues that that would prompt a flood of new claims by middle-age victims that could bankrupt parishes.
As the debate heads to the Senate, the church’s legislative arm, which has more than 40 registered lobbyists, is again engaged.
“This is a very serious issue that could have devastating consequences for Pennsylvania’s three million Catholics, who today worship, educate their children, receive health care, and care for the poor through the parishes, schools, and ministries that will be impacted by this legislation,” Amy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, said Thursday.
Insiders said the church’s efforts in the House were drowned out by the revelations of abuse in Johnstown-Altoona. Horrified by the disclosures, Christopher Winters, chief of staff to Caltagirone, said some longtime defenders of the church felt betrayed.
“The grand jury report portrayed something completely different than what we were told sitting at the table with lobbyists for the Catholic Conference,” he said. “That they were handling things.”
A repeated push
Then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham first called for an expanded civil statute in 2005, after her office’s grand jury probe into the Philadelphia archdiocese.
Investigators documented decades of abuse and predator priests shuffled among parishes. Most victims were barred by the statute of limitations from pursuing civil lawsuits, something the Abraham grand jury recommended should change.
Her successor, Seth Williams, repeated the call after a similar grand jury investigation in 2011. So did last month’s grand jury report on abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the criminal case against the friars.
Advocates say broadening the window for lawsuits would dissuade institutions from mishandling or concealing crimes against children while also giving victims a sense of closure and justice. Indeed, several other states have passed such laws in the wake of the national clergy abuse scandal.
The current law, which took effect in 2002, gives victims of child sex abuse in Pennsylvania until they are 30 to sue their attackers. The window to bring criminal charges extends until they turn 50, a change made in 2006.
The bill approved April 12 by the House would eliminate the timetable for criminal cases and extend the civil statute 20 years, until victims turn 50. It would also allow them to file for past abuse.
Rozzi, elected in 2013 on a pledge to change the law, spent a year trying to get support for the bill he introduced last year.
The Altoona probes provided a supercharge.
On March 1, a grand jury disclosed that prosecutors, police, and others looked the other way as allegations were brought to their attention in the Rust Belt diocese. Bishops allegedly ignored or hid decades of abuse against hundreds of children.
Rozzi demanded meetings with leaders in the Republican-led House. According to Rozzi, his message was succinct: “We’re going full guns blazing. We’re not backing down.”
On March 14, he led a Capitol rally with Kane and others to demand changing the statute. The next day, after Kane announced charges against three Franciscan leaders near Altoona, Rozzi said he put a hard sell on Caltagirone.
What, Rozzi said he asked his fellow lawmaker from Reading, did he want his legacy to be?
That afternoon, Caltagirone ordered his staff to issue the statement that rocked the Capitol.
John Salveson, an abuse survivor and reform advocate from Wayne, recalled reading it over and over. He had long seen Caltagirone as intractable on the issue. He read the statement incredulously, wondering, “Who are you? And what have you done with Tom Caltagirone?”
Caltagirone was unavailable last week to discuss the bill. But Winters, his longtime aide, and others said his statement proved persuasive with others in the House.
One was Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico (R. Dauphin), another lawmaker advocates considered a roadblock. Marsico’s committee was the gateway for the legislation. The bill could not move to the full House without his approval.
On April 4, Marsico introduced a bill that got things rolling.
According to Rozzi, he got words of support that day from Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) on the House floor. “Whatever direction you go in, I’m following you,” Turzai told him discreetly, Rozzi said. “We’re doing this.”
Turzai declined an interview request.
Eight days later, the House passed the bill on a 180-15 vote, sending it to the Senate.
An uncertain fate
In an interview last week, Greenleaf shared his own reaction to the horrors outlined in both recent grand jury reports.
“The facts are terrible,” the Willow Grove Republican said. “The facts are not defensible.”
Still, he would not say if he supported the retroactive civil lawsuit provision, even in theory. He said he wanted to examine questions of whether it would be constitutional to allow old abuse cases to be litigated.
The stakes may be higher for his committee vice chairman, Rafferty. Rafferty is the GOP nominee for attorney general, seeking to take over a job in which he would be expected to root out crime and protect its victims.
During an interview at his Collegeville office last week, he called the recent grand jury findings “very disheartening.”
But he was cautious about the bill.
“From a policy standpoint, I support the need for retroactive application of the statute of limitations,” Rafferty said Thursday. “I have a duty to carefully review the constitutional implications of the amended bill as it passed the House.”
In a follow-up email on Friday, Rafferty wrote that he looked forward to examining those issues at a hearing Greenleaf intended to call.
(An aide to Greenleaf would not confirm that such a decision had been made.)
Leach, the committee’s ranking Democrat, was equally noncommittal. The topic has been bandied about the Capitol for a decade, but Leach said he had to learn more.
“What do other states do?” he said last week. “What is the best way to handle this that’s fair to everybody?”
HOLLIDAYSBURG — It has been two months since the grand jury report into the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was released.
One man said Bishop Mark Bartchak isn’t doing enough and there is more corruption in the diocese.
George Foster is a name that might sound familiar. He kept records detailing church sex abuse, long before the grand jury report was issued.
Tuesday, Foster said the abuse allegations are only the tip of the iceberg and is calling on the bishop to do more.
The Hollidaysburg man also recently took out an ad in a local newspaper airing his frustrations.
“I met with this current bishop on more than one occasions and talked to him for several hours about how this problem got here in the diocese . The children molestation that was brought up is only part of the problem, the real problem is the problem of priestly immorality,” Foster said.
Foster said he is aware of allegations of clergy soliciting sex online and having consensual sex with an adult, even though it is forbidden. He says this behavior is unfit for church leaders. Foster said he’s brought this information to Bartchak.
“The bishop doesn’t say anything in his conversations. I think the Catholics have to be active and start calling the diocese and demanding change,” Foster said.
Bishop Bartchak responded by saying, “In regard to cases not involving abuse of a minor, the diocese will continue to take the necessary steps so that those who serve in the Church are suitable for the ministry entrusted to them.”
As for any allegation the he is turning a blind eye to the sex abuse of minors, the bishop said, “This is simply false. I remain committed to the protection of children and young people.”
On Tuesday, the diocese created on its website a list of priests who are the subject of sex abuse allegations on its web site, something Bartchak had promised to do after the grand jury report was first released.
Victims are encouraged to contact the hotline setup by the Attorney General’s Office at 888-538-8541.
MUMBAI – Police in India on Monday arrested 14 people for the kidnapping and beating of a Catholic bishop on April 25, including three of the bishop’s own priests, at least one of whom is believed to have been upset that he was recently denied a requested position in the diocese.
The main culprit charged in the arrest is Father Raja Reddy from Jammalamadugu, located in the diocese of Cuddapah in southern India, which is led by Bishop Prasad Gallela, 54, who is currently recovering from injuries sustained in the kidnapping.
Sources told Crux that Raja Reddy had requested the position of “procurator” in the diocese, which would have allowed him to exercise certain powers in the name of the bishop, but was turned down.
Gallela and his driver were kidnapped on April 25 at a village called Nagasanepalle by a group of persons who showered blows on him, blindfolded and tied him up, and took him to an undisclosed place and demanded a ransom of roughly $75,000.
According to the police investigation, the assailants took away a bag belonging to Gallela containing a small amount of cash, three ATM cards, a silver chain with the bishop’s holy cross, and his iPhone.
The attackers also kidnapped his driver, Vijay Kumar, in another car, beat him up, and took his ATM cards and used them to withdraw roughly $700 in cash.
Police officials said it was a case of kidnapping for ransom, theft, attempted murder, causing hurt and mischief and criminal conspiracy.
The accused left the bishop and his driver on a highway at about 2 a.m. on April 26, after the bishop agreed to pay roughly $30,000 for their freedom.
Gallela lodged a complaint with the police on April 27, saying that the kidnappers were aged between 25 and 35 years and that the incident had to do with the fallout from recent transfers of pastors working in the diocese.
Raja Reddy, the arrested priest charged with being the central figure in the case, runs an institution called “My Daddy Home” which houses an international school and college. Prior to this incident he was considered a friend of the bishop, recently presenting Gallela with an expensive Innova car on the prelate’s birthday.
When Crux spoke to Gallela on April 30, he said he was “doing well” and was “thankful to God” that he and the driver survived, adding that “the police have informed me that they have found the culprit.”
Gallela also hinted to Crux that his abduction had to do with an “administrative issue.”
“Yes, it is so,” he replied to a query from Crux, but was unwilling to say anything more, stating that the “police will tell.”
Father Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary of a local federation of churches, told Crux that the abduction and assault of the bishop was related to “transfers of priests.”
Police also charged that Raja Reddy’s relative, Jeereddy Govardhan Reddy, was the leader of the gang that abducted Gallela. According to The Hindu newspaper, the accused confessed to having made four unsuccessful attempts to kidnap the bishop between April 6 and 15.
Police said they seized five cars, four ATM cards, the $700 drawn from the driver’s ATM card, 14 cell phones, and a pen drive containing a video of an interview of the bishop and his driver while in captivity as part of the arrests.
Before the arrests were made, some observers had linked Gallela’s ordeal with a broader pattern of anti-Christian persecution in India, a situation many local activists say has worsened since the rise to power in 2014 of a national government backed by the country’s militant Hindu nationalist movements.
Four of the accused who initially evaded arrest will be captured soon, a police spokesman said.