Cardinal Francis George
Archdiocese of Chicago
835 N Rush St
Chicago IL 60611
October 3, 2013
Dear Cardinal George:
We belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
As you know, one of your priests, Fr. Robert Stepek, now works for the Burbank police department.
At least three men say he molested them as children.
At least three men have filed civil child sex abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese because of him.
At least two of these cases have settled.
Your abuse panel determined that child sex abuse allegations against him are credible.
And this week, it was revealed that Vatican officials say he "engaged in behaviors inappropriate for a priest."
And this week, you said you would not put him back in a parish.
So while you are protecting yourself and your archdiocese from legal liability (by not giving Fr. Stepek a church job), you’re doing little if anything to really protect others from him. You’re letting him work at the police department, refusing to put him in a treatment center, hiding records about his alleged crimes and sitting behind your desk instead of aggressively reaching out to other who might be able to help put Fr. Stepek in prison.
Meanwhile, according to today’s Chicago Tribune, Fr. Stepek is “counseling grieving families” and “helping victims who sometimes included children.”
The on-going secrecy of top Chicago archdiocesan staffers – including you – helps child molesters- perhaps dozens of them - get these kinds of jobs, sometimes around kids.
Need we remind you about Fr. Russell Romano and Fr. John Murphy? Both were credibly accused child molesting clerics. Both were suspended from active ministry. Both re-surfaced in secular jobs around kids.
So what happens now? Responsible adults don’t throw up their hands and pretend to be powerless when a predator is working around children and vulnerable adults.
Four groups must act: Burbank officials, Burbank citizens, church officials, and those who have seen, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by Fr. Stepek.
We hope everyone in the latter category – anyone with information or suspicions about Fr. Stepek -- will find the courage to call law enforcement. In our experience, that’s the best way to safeguard kids – when the independent law enforcement professionals investigate prosecute convict and imprison child predators.
We also hope that Burbank officials will quickly fire Fr. Stepek and discipline those responsible for his being hired.
If they don’t, we hope that Burbank citizens will pressure their elected officials to take these steps.
And we also urge you to take immediate, tangible steps to reduce the chances of Fr. Stepek sexually assaulting another child. Specifically, we urge you to
-- release more information about Fr. Stepek,
-- forbid him from holding a “civilian” job,
-- put him in a remote, secure, independently-run treatment center,
-- personally visit every place he’s worked in the archdiocese and emphatically beg victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers to contact police and prosecutors so that he can be investigated, charged, tried, convicted and kept away from kids, and
-- disclose the names and whereabouts of every cleric who you and your staff have deemed too dangerous to have working in a Chicago Catholic school or parish or other facility.
Cardinal, this is what a truly caring shepherd would do for his flock. If anything can make a difference and protect children, this is it. But it requires you to go beyond the bare minimum.
According to BishopAccountability.org, Fr. Stepek worked at
- St. Symphorosa and Seven Sons (1981-83) with a parish school [6135 S. Austin]
- St. Christina (1983-91) with a parish school [11005 S. Homan Ave.]
- St. Joseph in Homewood IL (1991-98) with a parish school [17951 Dixie Hwy.]
- St. Albert the Great in Burbank IL (6/15/98-5/21/06) with a parish school.
You should visit each of those parishes. You should aggressively reach out to the lost and wounded sheep, rather than hiding behind your lawyers and your public relations team.
We look forward to hearing from you. Even more, we look forward to your finding the courage to take steps now to better safeguard kids from suspended child molesting Chicago clerics, starting with Fr. Stepek.
Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com)
Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Kate Botche (630-768-1860, firstname.lastname@example.org )