For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013
A “permanently” suspended predator priest will be restored as “a priest in good standing” because Vatican bureaucrats have overruled Chicago church figures and claim that they can’t “find evidence strong enough to merit a judgment that (he) had sexually abused a minor.”
The cleric is Fr. Robert A. Stepek. Cardinal George should put him in a remote, secure treatment center immediately, so that kids will be safer. And every single Catholic church employee and church member - current and former – who saw, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by Fr. Stepek should step forward.
At the same time, however, Vatican officials “also found that Father Stepek had engaged in behaviors inappropriate for a priest.”
Cardinal George promises he’ll keep Fr. Stepek out of ministry. We hope George will honor this pledge. We’re skeptical, however, because we see pledges like this broken by bishops often. And we’re worried because a child molester without a job is still a child molester.
Kids are safer when predators like Fr. Stepek are behind bars. Since Catholic officials recruited, educated, ordained, hired, transferred and protected Fr. Stepek – and continue to pay him now – Catholic officials have a duty to help police and prosecutors go after him.
Fr. Stepek sued two of his victims for slander. We have long argued that bishops should forbid priests from acting in such a mean-spirited way that deters other victims from getting help and exposing predators.
It’s also disappointing that George, who commands a large public relations team and oversees hundreds of parish websites and church bulletins and an archdiocesan website and other resources - chose to announce the Vatican’s troubling decision with one tiny mention of this disturbing Vatican ruling in one issue of one newspaper.
When George’s church supervisors make irresponsible moves that endanger kids, he should use all of his resources to warn parishioners, parents and the public. When predator priests are given credibility, George should do everything he can to ameliorate this harm and warn others about the priest. A small notice in one outlet isn’t enough.
We urge Cardinal George to personally visit every parish where Fr. Stepek worked, starting this weekend, and beg anyone with information or suspicions about Fr. Stepek’s crimes or wrongdoing to call police and prosecutors. That’s what will protect kids – a clear, strong appeal by Chicago’s top Catholic official to his flock to speak up and take action.
September 29 - October 12, 2013
Statement regarding the status of Rev. Robert A. Stepek, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who was accused of sexually abusing minors
After the archdiocesan review of the allegations against Father Stepek had been completed, the Holy See directed that the case be sent to a canonical court. Upon completion of two lengthy canonical trials, the court was unable to find evidence strong enough to merit a judgment that Father Stepek had sexually abused a minor. Father Stepek is therefore a priest in good canonical standing in the Church.
In the course of the investigations for the trials, however, the court also found that Father Stepek had engaged in behaviors inappropriate for a priest. Father Stepek therefore will not have a ministerial assignment, and his faculties to minister are restricted.
Father Stepek has requested to retire from active ministry for health and family reasons, and Cardinal George has granted him early retirement.