The Gianna House, a Christian-run teen pregnancy center outside Detroit, offers a safe haven for pregnant teens. Unfortunately, its co-founder is barred from working with the Catholic church, after he allegedly abused a teen girl in his parish.
The Archdiocese of Detroit barred Reverend Kenneth Kaucheck from public ministry in 2009, after a woman accused him of molesting her as a teenager in the 1970s, when he acted as her counselor. But Kaucheck’s ban hasn’t prevented him from working with teenagers. His new role as co-founder of the Gianna House has him leading an organization that advertises safety and guidance for pregnant teens and new mothers.
The sexual abuse charges against Kaucheck went public in 2009, when an alleged victim made an official report to the Catholic church. The alleged abuse had occurred some 33 years earlier, she said, when Kaucheck was her counselor at the Guardian Angels Catholic Church outside Detroit. She was prompted to report the decades-old abuse after Kaucheck scheduled an appointment at the doctor’s office where she worked, the Detroit Free Press reported in 2009.
The church banned Kaucheck from public ministry, forcing him to resign from the two Michigan churches where he worked. Police did not press charges against Kaucheck, as his alleged victim had been 16, the legal age of consent in Michigan.
But at least one witness said the church had been aware of the allegations against Kaucheck even before 2009. Elizabeth Sayraf, a former receptionist at the Guardian Angels church, said the victim reported the abuse in 1976, producing plane tickets from a trip she had taken with Kaucheck to Florida. Sayraf told the Free Press that she had reported the victim’s allegations to church officials, who quickly reassigned Kaucheck to a church in Dearborn, Michigan. He did not face any disciplinary action.
Now, even with his ministry ban, Kaucheck appears to have found his way back into faith-based counseling.
The Gianna House, a Christian-run resource for pregnant women, bills itself as “the tangible alternative to abortion.” The house, formally opened in 2015, offers free food and parenting courses to young women, and hopes to soon offer residential space for up to 15 women and children.
Tax filings from the group’s 2013 “start-up mode” list two “founding members”: Sister Diane Masson, and Rev. Kenneth Kaucheck. Masson is listed as working one hour per week, while Kaucheck worked 20.
Masson has known Kaucheck since 1990, she told local newspaper, the Macomb Daily. But despite seeing Kaucheck through his 2009 sexual harassment allegations, she defended her decision to open a counseling center with him.
“He hasn’t been proven guilty,” Masson told the Macomb Daily. “Innocent until proven guilty.”
But the Gianna House appears to have taken steps to scrub Kaucheck from their web presence. The “Board of Directors” page on the Gianna House website reads “The Board has been selected by Sister Mary Diane Masson to provide a wide range of ideas and skills.”
Until at least March, the page claimed “the Board has been selected by Father Ken Kaucheck and Sister Mary Diane Masson,” an archived version of the site shows. Kaucheck’s biography, which described him as the Gianna House’s “co-founder and Director of Development,” was also removed from the site.
“We’d like to make no comment,” a Gianna House staffer told The Daily Beast, quickly hanging up.
The Archdiocese of Detroit, which did not return a request for comment, has indicated that Kaucheck’s role might violate his public ministry ban. Kaucheck’s “position at Gianna House violates the restrictions placed on his ministry in 2009,” an Archdiocese spokesperson told the Free Press. “We assert that he should not be allowed to continue in this position.”
At least one organization says the Archdiocese’s statement is a cop-out.
“I don’t believe they’re trying. I think they’re passing the buck to the Vatican, and pretending to be powerless,” David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests told the Daily Beast. “We think the quickest and best step the Detroit Archbishop could clearly take would be to hold a news conference for tomorrow, call Father Ken today, give him 24 hours to get into a treatment center, or else tomorrow, I’m going to make your personnel file public.”