A Matter of Conscience: Confronting Clergy Abuse: Why We Produced This New Documentary Film

A Matter of Conscience: Confronting Clergy Abuse: Why We Produced This New Documentary Film

For us, Susan and John Michalczyk, it all started with a radio program on National Public Radio.  Susan heard Bob Hoatson, the Co-Founder of Road to Recovery in New Jersey, address issues of clergy sexual abuse.  Susan later recounted the content of the program to John, a documentary filmmaker. We invited Bob to our home outside of Boston, the so-called epicenter of the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, and we discussed our plans to produce a documentary on the survivors. John had produced 20 documentary films on global conflict resolution and disabilities, many of which were broadcast on television nationally and some internationally.  Susan had worked on scripts, narrations, and voice-overs for some of these films. Meeting Bob gave us the spark needed to initiate a film production unlike others we produced.

What ensued was a chain reaction that brought together a host of individuals, lay and clergy, advocates and attorneys, all committed to supporting survivors abused by pedophile priests.  Once the research was completed, interviews were filmed.  These were very tragic narratives recounted by the survivors.  The transcriber of the interviews said she would type a few paragraphs and cry, then type some more and cry again. Kris Merrill, Jerry Sypek, Bob Hoatson, Alexa McPherson, Helen McGonigle, and Dave Carney spoke from their fragmented souls about the consequences of being abused by someone who represented God to them. Although the psychological scars were apparent, they remarked, and healing would take a lifetime, in Bob Hoatson’s words, these survivors offered a clear and honest insight into the harm done by a clerical predator.

With a very moving script by Susan, the result was our first documentary on the topic of clerical sexual transgressions, Who Takes Away the Sins: Witnesses to Clergy Abuse that was premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in May 2013, and then screened there again for three evenings in October 2013.  The panels of the participants spoke eloquently of the need to reform the Catholic Church and urged the hierarchy to commit themselves to accountability and transparency.  Since 2013, the film has been shown on local cable stations and then widely from classrooms and college programs to gatherings of the Voice of the Faithful. Our website (www.etoileproductionsusa.com) provided us with the opportunity to include many further poignant comments by the participants which were unable to be included in the one-hour documentary.

We did not let the urgency of the subject die out.  Soon we embarked on a sequel to the film following Susan’s initial idea of tracking down men and women of conscience who reported clergy abuse and were sanctioned by the Church leaders.  Some were ostracized, removed from their positions, and deemed disloyal.  Others were looked at as traitors to their religious order or Church for breaking the code of silence.  Once again, Bob Hoatson as Field Producer contacted his colleagues of the “Catholic Whistleblowers,” inviting them to participate in the documentary. Frs. Patrick Collins, Ronald Lemmert, Bruce Teague, James Connell, and Thomas Patrick Doyle, as well as Srs. Maureen Paul Turlish, Sally Butler, and Claire Smith all agreed to be interviewed, mostly in an office in New York, thanks to the graciousness of Marci Hamilton of the Carodozo School of Law who also provided insights into the extensive phenomenon of abuse in all types of religions and institutions.

Those who generously participated in the project also included from Boston, Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for countless survivors of clergy abuse, and Anne Barrett-Doyle of BishopAccountability.org.  Anne offered us an insight into their research in documenting the history of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church.  Their files provided us with the necessary documentation to reinforce the interviews held in New York and Boston.

The documentary opens with a bridge from the earlier film by way of survivors recounting how the abuse by priests shattered their lives.  How could this have happened in a Catholic Church that professes to be the highest moral authority in the world, we ask. The film attempts to answer this—with the silence of the laity, the lack of transparency and accountability in the Church hierarchy, and the cover-up from the local dioceses to the steps of the Vatican in Rome, “the evil wolves,” according to Fr. Ronald Lemmert citing Ezekiel 34, entered the sheepfold and lay waste to the innocent sheep.  Using an expression first discussed in the past by Thomas Doyle and reiterated here by Marci Hamilton and Bruce Teague in the film, the evil doers committed “soul murder.”

Each participant in the film discusses how they came to report issues of clergy sexual abuse and, despite serious repercussion for their actions,  how they continue to advocate on the behalf of survivors. Above all, the interviewees caution us not to be neutral, for the bystanders allow evil to occur.  In The Inferno, Dante considers the neutrals as the lowest of the low.

Lastly, the documentary offers both the survivors and advocates a voice by which they can educate us about the perils of maintaining silence, which allows a child to be sacrificed for the so-called greater good of an institution.



Priest charged in Detroit with child porn crimes

Priest charged in Detroit with child porn crimes

DETROIT (AP) — A priest who taught chemistry years ago at a Detroit Catholic school has been charged with child pornography crimes.

The FBI says the Rev. Richard Kurtz secretly recorded hockey players in the locker room at University of Detroit Jesuit High School during the 1998-99 season.

The 69-year-old Kurtz was arrested Monday in Dittmer, Missouri, and will appear in St. Louis federal court Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately known if he has a lawyer. He’ll eventually be transferred to Detroit.

The FBI says the Detroit case is based on child pornography discovered by priests in 2011 at Kurtz’ residences in Chicago and Clarkston, Michigan. He was arrested in Chicago that year on a sexual assault charge in Douglas County, Colorado, involving a minor in 2001.

Kurtz was placed on probation.

Priest Detained On Child Sex Abuse Charges

Priest Detained On Child Sex Abuse Charges


JOHNSTOWN, CAMBRIA COUNTY— A federal judge ordered Rev. Joseph Maurizio to stay in the Cambria County Jail.

The 69 year old was in court Monday for a detention hearing after being arrested last week.  He was charged by the U.S. Attorney on child pornography and tourism charges.

More than 40 people packed into the Johnstown Federal Courthouse for the hearing, all in support of Maurizio.  Many cried as he walked in the courtroom handcuffed escorted by Marshals. 

“I thought the two attorneys did a great job the way they are supposed to,” said Father Sean Foley, New Jersey.  “I thought the judge was very fair.”

Father Foley came from New Jersey to hear testimony.  The prosecution said told the judge ‘they’ve only just scratched the surface of this case.”  Investigators are currently going through more than 18,000 images seized from a camera during the September raid.

Prosecutors told the judge two images depict child pornography.  They also said they think the 69 year old should remain in jail because since the case went public two victims from the area ages, 5 and 7 have come forward alleging abuse.  The defense had no comment about the new allegations, but they did focus on the character or the priest.

“Father Joe has devoted his life to missionary work and helping under privilege children,” said Steven Passarello, Defense Attorney.  “He is a good man who served in the military.”

The prosecution also made the judge aware of charges being filed in Honduras against Maurizio.  The judge said the two sides painted a picture of “Father Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ making it difficult case.  However, because of Maurizio being a flight risk, he ordered him to stay detained.

“The judge’s comments I thought were actually favorable to the defense,” said Passarello.  “He said the prosecution has to turn in more evidence.”

Foley said he has known Maurizio since 1982.

“I believe these charges are false.”

The prosecution has to turn over additional evidence to the judge by Tuesday.


KC Bishop Finn under Vatican investigation

KC Bishop Finn under Vatican investigation

A Finn spokesman says the bishop was notified of the investigation by the papal ambassador in Washington.

The National Catholic Reporter was first to report the inquiry which is being conducted by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa visited the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph last week as part of the investigation. His spokeswoman said Monday only that the visit was private.

Finn is the highest-ranking U.S. church leader to be convicted for failing to take action on child sex abuse claims. He was sentenced to two years’ probation for not reporting a priest who had hundreds of pornographic photos of young girls.

Feds: Ex-Jesuit teacher videotaped boys in locker room

Feds: Ex-Jesuit teacher videotaped boys in locker room

A former University of Detroit Jesuit High School teacher has been charged for allegedly videotaping hockey players changing in a locker room during the 1998-99 season.


Two years after pleading guilty to molesting a student, a priest and former teacher at an all-boys Catholic high school in Detroit is facing new legal troubles — this time for allegedly videotaping hockey players while they were changing in a locker room.

Richard James Kurtz, 69, a Jesuit priest and former chemistry teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, was charged in U.S. District Court Monday with producing, possessing and transporting child pornography. The charges stem from crimes he allegedly committed 15 years ago, during the 1998-99 hockey season at U-D Jesuit.

It’s not his first run-in with the law.

Kurtz was convicted of molesting a U-D student during a trip he took with the boy to the Air Force Academy in Colorado. While the trip happened in 2001, he wasn’t arrested or charged until a decade later, while he was living in Chicago. He pleaded guilty in 2012. He did not get prison time but is currently serving a 10-year-to-life term of supervised probation in confinement in Missouri.

U-D fired Kurtz in 2001 after learning of the student’s accusations and reported him to Child Protection Services.

“James Kurtz has had no affiliation with U of D Jesuit since that time,” U of D Jesuit President Karl Kiser said in a statement Monday. “The safety and well-being of our students is of primary importance to all of us at U of D Jesuit. We do not tolerate any form of abuse at the school, and we absolutely do not support any efforts to protect abusers. We want to communicate our unwavering support for victims of abuse, no matter when it may have occurred.”

According to the U.S. Attorneys office, Kurtz was arrested in Missouri on Monday and is expected to be extradited to Detroit soon to face charges that could send him to prison for up to 30 years.

There was no attorney of record listed for Kurtz in court documents.

The locker room videotaping allegations come five years after similar allegations surfaced at Grosse Pointe South High School, where former ice hockey coach Robert Bopp was accused of using a hidden camera to videotape players in a locker room during the 2008-09 season.

That information surfaced in an investigation that resulted in Bopp pleading guilty in 2009 in federal court to child pornography charges involving other underaged boys, not any of the Grosse Pointe students.

Kurtz, formerly of Clarkston, taught chemistry on and off for 25 years at the 137-year-old Catholic high school in northwest Detroit, starting in 1970.

News of Kurtz’s arrest inspired members of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), including Matt Jatczak, who was outraged by the latest allegations against Kurtz.

“That’s very devious. It’s sickening,” he said of the allegations that Kurtz videotaped hockey players in the locker room. “And now these hockey players know what happened. I can only imagine what they’re feeling. They’re probably angry and shocked and upset. And hopefully they’re not scarred by what this man has done.”

SNAP, meanwhile, is calling on anyone who may have information about Kurtz that could help authorities to come forward.

“This is no time for complacency,” said SNAP director David Clohessy, a survivor of priest abuse who disclosed his story in 1990. “Often times victims and witnesses and whistle blowers assume that when a sex offender is charged, it’s a done deal. But in our experience, we’ve seen time and time again sex offender clerics hire top notch lawyers … and get off completely.”

Here, according to court records, is what led to the latest federal charges filed against him.

After Kurtz was arrested in Chicago in 2011 on molestation charges stemming from the Colorado trip with a student, two Jesuit priests discovered evidence of possible child pornography in Kurtz’s belongings in Chicago and his home in Clarkston.

The two priests turned the information over to the FBI, which conducted its own investigation. That probe linked Kurtz to the U-D Jesuit hockey team’s locker room, and child porn in his home.

According to court records, Kurtz videotaped high school hockey players changing in the locker room after games during the 1998-99 season. The FBI also discovered that Kurtz was transferring other child pornographic material from Clarkston to Chicago, and possessed other child porn at his home in Clarkston.

“Certainly, when news like this comes out it’s very troubling,” said Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “He’s not our priest, but certainly it’s troubling what we’re hearing.”

Kurtz worked directly for the Jesuit religious order, which runs the Detroit high school, not the Archdiocese.

In a statement today, the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesuits said: “The Province has cooperated fully with the authorities in this case and it remains committed to justice and healing for those involved.”

The religious order also noted that Kurtz has been restricted from public ministry since 2001, when the sexual abuse allegations arose.

Kurtz is charged with producing child pornography, which carries up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted; transporting child pornography, which carries up to 20 years in prison, and possession child pornography, which carries up to 10 years in prison.


Yell County Priest Removed For Alleged Sexual Misconduct

Yell County Priest Removed For Alleged Sexual Misconduct 

LITTLE ROCK — The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock says a Yell County priest has been removed from the ministry and will not be allowed to function as a priest again because of “credible allegations of sexual misconduct.”

In a homily that Bishop Anthony Taylor delivered Sunday in Russellville, Dardanelle and Danville and that was posted on the the diocese’s website, Taylor said church officials received allegations the previous weekend that Father James Melnick had committed “multiple acts of sexual misconduct with multiple adult victims” over a period of less than a year.

Melnick, 30, was ordained in 2009 and was assigned to Danville and Dardanelle in March 2013, according to the diocese.

“Since there were multiple victims, we seem to be dealing with predatory behavior, not romance,” Taylor said in the post.

Taylor said church officials verified the allegations by interviewing Melnick and some of the victims. He also apologized to any who were harmed by Melnick.

“I sincerely regret the harm you have suffered and in the name of the Church I apologize to you for what Father Melnick has done. Given what was shared with you today and what Father Melnick has admitted to doing, the Church would never allow a priest in situation like this to ever to function as a priest again,” Taylor said in the post.

He encouraged any people who were victims of Melnick to contact the diocese to report the incident and offered the diocese’s help in obtaining counseling. He also asked for prayers for Melnick, his victims and the Catholic Church.

Melnick will be replaced by Father Mauricio Carrasco, Taylor said.

Dennis Lee, the diocese’s chancellor for administrative affairs, said Monday the diocese did not know whether any criminal laws had been broken, but he said “it is clear to Bishop Taylor that Church law has been violated.”

According to his online blog, Melnick is a 2005 graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas and a 2009 graduate of the Pontifical North American College. According to the Cabot Public Schools website, Melnick is a 2002 graduate of Cabot High.

The Danville and Dardanelle police chiefs said Monday they are not aware of any reports of alleged criminal activity involving Melnick.

Phone calls to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Danville and St. Augustine Catholic Church in Dardanelle went unanswered Monday afternoon. Melnick did not immediately respond to a message sent to him Monday via his Facebook page.

– See more at: http://swtimes.com/news/state-news/yell-county-priest-removed-alleged-sexual-misconduct#sthash.WS6cvJif.dpuf

Priest Charged With Production, Transportation, And Possession Of Child Pornography

Priest Charged With Production, Transportation,
And Possession Of Child Pornography


Richard James Kurtz, 69, formerly of Clarkston, Michigan, was charged in a criminal complaint  with production, transportation, and possession of child pornography, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. 

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

According to court records, Kurtz, a Jesuit priest and former teacher at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, was arrested in November 2011—while he was residing in Chicago—for “sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.”  That arrest was based on an arrest warrant issued out of Douglas County, Colorado, for conduct that occurred in 2001.  After Kurtz’s arrest in Chicago, two Jesuit priests discovered evidence of possible child pornography crimes among Kurtz’s belongings in Chicago, as well at Kurtz’s former residence in Clarkston, Michigan.  The Jesuits provided that evidence to the FBI.    

According to court records, the FBI’s investigation revealed that Kurtz surreptitiously videotaped UDJHS hockey players changing in the locker room after games during the 1998-1999 hockey season.  Beyond this production of child pornography, the FBI also discovered that Kurtz transferred other child pornographic material from Clarkston to Chicago, and possessed still other child pornography in Clarkston.     

Kurtz was arrested today in Missouri where he will face a magistrate judge for removal to the Eastern District of Michigan.  If convicted of these offenses, Kurtz faces a term of 15-30 years in custody for the production of child pornography charge, 5-20 years in custody for the transportation of child pornography charge, and up to 10 years in custody for the possession of child pornography charge. 

Kurtz was a teacher of chemistry at the UDJHS from 1970-1973, 1978-1983, and from September 1984-May 2001.

McQuade praised the work of the FBI agents for their professionalism and dedication in their aggressive and thorough investigation of these cases. 


Pope’s decision builds on bishop’s action

Pope’s decision builds on bishop’s action

Ever since The Boston Globe exposed Cardinal Bernard Law’s shell game with pedophile priests about 15 years ago, the Vatican has struggled to deal effectively with innumerable cases that subsequently emerged around the world. From promoting Cardinal Law to a position in Rome to responding poorly to major cases in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, the church has not achieved the moral clarity that the flock and society expect.

Against that checkered history, Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera and Pope Francis deserve great credit for their fast and decisive actions relative to a priest from Northeastern Pennsylvania who was accused of molesting male students at the former St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst Township.

In 2005 the church settled for $380,000 a federal lawsuit that had been brought by a former St. Gregory’s student against the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity and another priest. Former Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino removed the Rev. Urrutigoity from the diocese, but he was accepted and promoted in the Paraguayan Diocese of Ciudad del Este.

Advocates for abuse victims learned of the Rev. Urrutigoity’s position and protested, demanding action. Bishop Bambera wrote to the Vatican, characterizing the Rev. Urrutigoity as “posing a serious threat to young people.”

On Thursday, Pope Francis removed from office Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of Ciudad Del Este, who had accepted and promoted the Rev. Urrutigoity.

The case is a breakthrough that will help to restore shaken confidence in church leadership. It demonstrates that the church, as a global institution, has the means to enforce its own moral standards among the clergy. It should be a template for future cases where priests suspected of abusing children find a safe haven in a different diocese.


Call for AG to order inquests for Tuam mother-and-baby home

Call for AG to order inquests for Tuam mother-and-baby home

There has been a call for the Attorney General to order inquests to be carried out into the deaths of children who died at the mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

This would necessitate excavations to be carried out at a site, where it is thought babies who died in the Tuam home were buried.

A solicitor, who is assisting a number of women and children who stayed there, contends there is legal argument and overwhelming evidence to see if remains can be exhumed and inquests held.

Kevin Higgins cites a provision in the 1962 Coroner’s Act, allowing the AG to order a coroner to hold an inquest.

Section 24 of the Act states that if the AG has reason to believe a person died in circumstances which may warrant the holding of an inquest, then they can direct any coroner to conduct such an inquiry.

Mr Higgins told RTÉ’s Liveline this afternoon that it was almost inevitable that exhumations would have to take place.

He said the issues surrounding the deaths of children in mother-and-baby homes had to be confronted.

He said the number of deaths recorded at the Tuam home over a period of over more than 30 years was “off the scale” compared to the rate of children deaths elsewhere at the same time.

He is also concerned that despite official figures relating to death rates, there are no burial records for the vast majority of children that died in the Tuam home.

Mr Higgins said he understood the AG was considering the matter at present, adding it was his view that if she did not exercise her prerogative under the Act, then there may be a legal challenge seeking to compel her to order inquests.

The Office of the Attorney General does not comment on its deliberations.


Somerset County priest accused of sex with Central American children

Somerset County priest accused of sex with Central American children

PITTSBURGH —A priest accused of traveling to Honduras to engage in sex with children while promoting missionary work with the poor there has been arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Documents reveal the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and law enforcement agencies first learned of the allegations five years ago.

VIDEO: Watch Paul Van Osdol’s report

Church officials, the Attorney General’s Office and the FBI were all declining to comment Friday.

The Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr., 69, spent two decades working with orphaned children in Central America. Homeland Security investigators say some of those same children were his victims.

“We see this very, very often with child-molesting Catholic clerics. They gravitate toward communities or countries where kids are especially vulnerable,” said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

In July, an investigator interviewed several of Maurizio’s alleged victims in Honduras.

In one case, court records say a victim known as John Doe 3 “observed Maurizio reach over, place his hand inside a minor boy’s pants, and touch the minor boy’s genital area.”

That same victim said he saw “John Doe 2 and Maurizio engaging in sexual intercourse inside the chapel.”

Two weeks ago, authorities searched the rectory of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Central City, Somerset County, where Maurizio is pastor, and found multiple images of child pornography. ICE agents also searched the farm where Maurizio lived in Windber.

The allegations against Maurizio first surfaced in 2009, when volunteers reported him to the diocese, the FBI and the state attorney general. But the case apparently floundered until this year.

“That is so incredibly disappointing and so painfully common,” Clohessy said.

Maurizio is in jail, awaiting a detention hearing Monday morning. He has said abuse allegations against him were a bogus plot by the Honduran government to thwart his charity work.

Maurizio’s attorney, Steven Passarello, said the criminal complaint regurgitates allegations made five years ago after the priest’s charity had a falling out with a local charity. He said children were bribed or coerced into making abuse allegations.

The ICE office wants to hear from any other possible victims. There is an online form to submit tips at www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp and a toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423

Read more: http://www.wtae.com/news/pennsylvania-priest-accused-of-sex-with-central-american-children/28270392#ixzz3EVxqXyqb