Covenant House founder cleared
In mid-December 1989, Kevin Lee Kite, 26 charged Father Bruce Ritter, the founder of Covenant House, with sexual and financial misconduct. However, a front-page story in the New York Post revealed that Kite had a history of male prostitution. His father said that Kite had a “history of pathological lying. He tries to hurt everyone who tries to help him.”
Before the original story could be retracted, it was picked up by other newspapers and by TV and radio stations in Canada and the U.S. It has had a detrimental effect on the Covenant House organization.
Kite’s father, a teacher at a community college in Texas, said that his son had voluntarily entered a psychiatric clinic for treatment. His wife, a music teacher, corroborated her husband’s statements.
Father Ritter is the founder of a number of houses for street kids in cities in the United States and Canada. Kevin Kite, according to John Kells, public relations director of Covenant House in New York, gave the media a false name and also lied about his age, claiming that he was 19. All his allegations have been disproved now in a probe conducted by New York District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, but in the meantime donations for Covenant Houses all over the States and Canada have fallen by 25 per cent, Kells told The Interim.
Father Ritter is considering a suit for damages against Kite, but realizes that the latter has no financial worth, Kells said. Moreover, figures in public life are not easily protected by law against slanderous attacks.
Some critics have charged that Covenant House was not a bona fide Catholic agency and that leadership, staffing and direction were not particularly Catholic. Kells said that Father Ritter was aware of this criticism and had contacted the Franciscan Director General in Rome about the problem. The Director agreed to have five student seminarians obtain a degree in social work so that they could eventually take positions of leadership in various of the Covenant Houses.
Kells said that the real problem was a lack of priestly vocations to take on this kind of work. It is difficult work, he said, and of the more than 100,000 kids they have taken off the streets into the houses, fewer than a third have benefited.