IL--Sex abuse victims blast IL university over predator
For immediate release: Thursday, 2/19
Sex abuse victims blast IL university
College let controversial priest speak
Cleric resigned from St. Louis Police Board
He allegedly sexually harassed three officers
And he offered to watch child porn with one
Group wants school president to apologize & explain”
“Those responsible should be disciplined,” SNAP says
A victims’ support group wants officials at an Illinois college to explain and apologize for their decision to let a Catholic priest who was accused of sexually harassing at least three police officers speak last month on campus. Those responsible should be disciplined, the organization says.
On Jan. 23, Fr. Maurice Nutt, a St. Louis native, was the keynote speaker at a Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration at McKendree University in Lebanon.
In 2001, Fr. Nutt resigned his post as a St. Louis Police Commissioner after allegations surfaced that he had sexually harassed at least two officers.
At least two civil suits against him were settled.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press, Fr. Nutt was accused of repeatedly making “unsolicited intimate overtures to” two officers, touching one on the thigh, trying to kiss one, boasting to one “that his power on the police force could positively influence the officer's career,” inviting one to “watch pornographic movies showing sex acts involving men and boys,” becoming “increasingly aggressive" after one "refused Fr. Nutt's overt sexual advance," and threatening “to have an officer fired if he reported the sexual harassment.”
In sharply worded letter, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, blasted McKendree President James M. Dennis for “exposing vulnerable teenagers and young adults to a credibly accused predator without revealing his disturbing past” and “holding him up as a role model.”
The group is seeking an apology and an explanation from Dennis and disciplinary action against those responsible for Fr. Nutt’s visit.
“One reason why clergy sex crimes, misconduct, harassment and cover ups continue is because predator priests are rarely punished,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's director. “In this case, even worse, a serial predatory cleric is being given access to vulnerable teenagers and young adults, some of whom are far away from home for the first time and none of whom were apparently warned about the very alarming and credible accusations against him.”
Fr. Nutt belongs to a Denver-based Catholic religious order called the Redemptorists, headed by Fr. Stephen Rehrauer (303 370 0035, [email protected]).
Fr. Nutt apparently splits his time between Illinois and Louisiana.
Last year, he was named head of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, a position he still holds (504-520-7691, [email protected]).
He also evidently lives and works part time in Chicago as part of the Redemptorist Mission Preaching Team (312-642-1669 ext. 229, [email protected], [email protected], Fr. John Paul Andree, Fr. Greg Schmitt and Fr. Tony Judge).
“But Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton also bears some responsibility here,” said Clohessy. “A bishop is notified and gives permission when an outside priest wants to speak in his diocese. So we believe Braxton gave Fr. Nutt the OK to give that McKendree talk. Shame on him.”
For roughly eight years, starting in 1993, Fr. Nutt was the pastor of St. Alphonsus “Rock” Catholic church in St. Louis, where he grew up and was ordained a priest by Memphis Bishop Terry Steib. He has a Doctor of Ministry from Aquinas Institute of Theology.
For years, Fr. Nutt reportedly worked at Alexian Brothers Health Systems in St. Louis. He created founded the Grand Rock Community Economic Development Corporation with Judge David Mason serving as first chairperson of the board.
A park near St. Louis University, at Lindell and Vandeventer, is named after him.
He left Missouri in 2002, resurfaced at Jesus and Mary Catholic Church (901 525 9870) in a low income, minority neighborhood Memphis in 2005.
According to his biography, Fr. Nutt travels often to give talks.
Earlier this month, he was the homilist at St. Agnes Cathedral on Long Island (while Auxiliary Bishop Andrzej Zglejszewski of Rockville Centre was the main celebrant). And he spoke at a Catholic Black History Month event in Oakland, California, according to a church publication and his Facebook page.
Last year, he also spoke at St. Bernadine Catholic Church in Baltimore Maryland, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Lexington Kentucky, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Jacksonville, St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in San Antonio Texas, St. Alphonsus Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, Saints Peter and Paul Church in Atlanta Georgia, St. Raymond / St. Leo Church in New Orleans Louisiana, St. Mark Church in Pryor Oklahoma and St. Charles Borromeo Church in New York, New York.
In 2013, he spoke at a St. Joseph Catholic church in Huntsville Alabama and at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Lafayette, Louisiana.
In 2009, he held a book signing event at Left Bank Books in St. Louis.
“We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered any crimes or misconduct by Fr. Nutt to get help, call police, protect others, expose wrongdoers and start healing,” said Clohessy. “Keeping quiet only helps those who commit and conceal sexual violence.”
Photos of Fr. Nutt are here:
Video of Fr. Nutt preaching is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fePJ_etllbg&sns=fb
The police officers who sued Fr. Nutt are Rodrick LeGrand, Samuel Irons and William Clinton. U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel presided over the cases. The attorneys involved were Frank Kaveney (for Nutt) and Richard Swatek (for the officers).
A copy of SNAP’s letter to McKendree’s president, sent today by fax and e mail, is below.
Feb. 19, 2015
Dear President Dennis:
We are appalled that a priest who’s been accused of sexually harassing at least three young men was allowed to speak at your university last month. We believe you owe your students, staff, alums and the public an apology and an explanation. And we believe you should punish those who are responsible.
Please keep in mind these undisputed facts about Fr. Maurice Nutt:
--Fr. Nutt was sued by at least three adults (not kids, whose memories may be more suspect),
--Fr. Nutt’s accusers were police officers (presumably somewhat more credible than just any adult),
--Fr. Nutt was also accused in at least one lawsuit of inviting an officer to watch child pornography, and
--At least two of sexual harassment lawsuits settled out of court,
--Fr. Nutt resigned his post as a St. Louis Police Commissioner,
--Fr. Nutt took “an extended sabbatical from St. Louis and his parish after the officers' allegations were made public,”
--Fr. Nutt kept a very low profile for several years,
--Fr. Nutt was later sent to work next in a low income minority community in Memphis, and
--though he’s a St. Louis native, Fr. Nutt has not been allowed to work in St. Louis since.
Now, consider these serious and credible allegations against Fr. Nutt (as reported by the Associated Press):
--One officer said Fr. Nutt “assaulted him by touching and trying to kiss him,”
--Fr. Nutt threatened to have an officer fired if he reported the sexual harassment,
--At least two officers alleged that Fr. Nutt had made unsolicited intimate overtures to them,
--One officer accused Fr. Nutt of boasting that his power on the police force could positively influence the officer's career,
--Fr. Nutt told one officer “to begin meeting regularly with him at the church for priestly counseling sessions,”
--After the first meeting, the lawsuit claims, “Nutt took (him) from the church's meeting room to Nutt's home, where (he) was invited to watch pornographic movies showing sex acts involving men and boys,”
--After he "refused Father Nutt's overt sexual advance," the lawsuit alleges, Nutt "became increasingly aggressive" in later meetings, inappropriately touching and trying to kiss (him), and
--"All of these advances were unsolicited and unwelcome," the lawsuit said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that Fr. Nutt “made more than a dozen late-night phone calls to two officers, touched one of them on the thigh and made overtures to both. The officers reportedly made charges without knowledge of the other's complaints.”
Yet this man was held out as last month a decent man and acceptable speaker at McKendree University? Why would you endanger your staff and students like this? What if, now or years from now, Fr. Nutt sexually exploits or harasses an 18 year old McKendree student or a 22 year old McKendree staffer he meet and befriended on last month’s visit to your campus?
Don’t pull the “forgiveness” claim here. Forgiveness is a private choice. Giving a speaker a forum at a college is a public act. And when that opportunity is given to a man who allegedly sexually harassed his underlings – and invited one of them to watch child porn - that’s an irresponsible act. (We can forgive a drunken school bus driver. But it’s morally wrong to give him keys to another school bus. And we can forgive Fr. Nutt. But it’s morally wrong to give him access to young people who are uninformed about his past misdeeds.)
No one’s claiming Fr. Nutt should be hungry, homeless or unemployed. But neither should he be given chances to be around vulnerable young people or held up as some sort of role model for them.
Fr. Nutt had no business being on your campus, much less in such an exalted role.
And please don’t try to chalk this up as some sort of “slip up” or “oversight.” This decision involved either deceit or recklessness.
Either there was deceit - a college staffer knew about Fr. Nutt’s past and kept it hidden. Or there was recklessness – a college staffer didn’t bother to “google” Fr. Nutt before bringing him to campus.
In either case, apologies and explanations, by you, the president, are in order. You can’t “un-do” Fr. Nutt’s visit. But you can ameliorate the harm and danger caused by it. The best way to do this – and to prevent future similar actions that endanger your students – is to publicly discipline those responsible for bringing Fr. Nutt to your campus.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003, [email protected])