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  Priest Denies Abuse Allegation, Explains His Departure Inletter to Bartlett Parishioners

By Sue Ter Maat
Chicago Daily Herald
July 5, 2002

A Bartlett priest who resigned amid the Catholic Church's sexual misconduct scandal sent a letter recently to his former parishioners, denying allegations of sex abuse, explaining his sudden departure and asking his flock to be kind to his replacement. Former St. Peter Damian pastor, the Rev. William Lupo, was one of eight priests who resigned or were removed last month because of alleged sexual misconduct. Lupo had been invited to write the letter by Cardinal Francis George to help the parish understand what had happened, said Dennis Kowalski, St. Peter Damian's business manager.

Lupo did not respond to requests for an interview regarding his letter. In it, he denied allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with three teenage girls while he served at St. Mary Church in Des Plaines from 1979 to 1986.

When the sexual misconduct allegations against Lupo surfaced in the early 1990s, he was already serving at St. Peter Damian, having come to the parish in July 1990. Three teenage girls alleged sexual misconduct by Lupo in the early 1980s.

"The allegations, in my judgment, were not true and I remember thinking, naively, that it would be relatively easy to demonstrate that. I was wrong," Lupo wrote.

Lupo appeared before the Fitness Review Board in the early 1990s. The panel recommended Lupo stay in ministry; but his actions would be monitored by the church and he was not be allowed to be alone with minors.

Lupo underwent psychiatric evaluation, testing and counseling, according to the letter. He agreed to live in a monitored setting and to never be in the presence of a minor without another adult present, he wrote.

Lupo had believed the matter was closed and that he would continue his ministry. However, in light of the church's new zero tolerance policy, past offenses were held up to a new scrutiny. While Lupo described in the letter the new policy instituted by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last month, he didn't say what he thought about the new policy.

Although Lupo had the option of appealing, he chose to resign due to health problems, the letter said. Last year, Lupo experienced congestive heart failure. Currently, he is on several medications and has been advised to avoid stress, which is why he declined to appeal, he wrote.

"Maybe if I were ten years younger when this option was offered I would have taken it," Lupo wrote.

Since Lupo's sudden departure last month - announced during a Sunday Mass by Auxiliary Bishop Jerome Listecki - parishioners at the church at 109 S. Crest Ave. have been confused and upset, Kowalski said.

St. Peter Damian parishioner Tom Floyd said he was disappointed church members hadn't been told of the allegations shortly after they were lodged against Lupo in the early 1990s. Although Lupo's letter did little to quell his concerns, Floyd was glad the former pastor had written it, he said.

"There was a person that was there for 12 years, and then he wasn't there anymore," Floyd said. "To write a letter was appropriate."

The letter, on church stationary, allayed some of parishioners' puzzlement by allowing Lupo to explain himself, Kowalski said.

"It helped the parish enormously. We heard from a half dozen people and by word of mouth that it provided further understanding," Kowalski said "When the announcement was made the impression was we have a child molester. The letter explains the situation and where he is at now and why he resigned instead of fighting the allegation."

Lupo made one request of his former parishioners: to openly accept his replacement without bitterness.

The Rev. J.C. Murray, a retired priest sent from the Chicago Archdiocese, will take over services until a permanent replacement is found, Kowalski said.

A representative of the archdiocese said that Lupo's permanent replacement had not been found and there is no timetable to do so.

"It is not a process that is rushed but there is every desire to serve the parish well," said Mary McDonough, an archdiocesan spokeswoman.

Although Lupo didn't address it directly, his plea for the new priest's support might have stemmed from the parish's loss of two priests in a row due to alleged sexual misconduct.

Lupo's predecessor at St. Peter Damian, the Rev. James Ray, had been removed recently from his job as assistant liaison in the Chicago Archdiocese Office of Health and Hospital Affairs. The allegations against Ray surfaced in 1991 when he was ministering at a church in Lake County. A man told the archdiocese that when he was a minor, and Ray was a priest at St. Peter Damian, Ray sexually abused him. Ray served at St. Peter Damian between 1984 to 1989, McDonough said.

Ray and Lupo are staying in private residences paid for by the archdiocese and the church will continue their care, McDonough said.

Lupo ended the letter telling them not to worry.

"But don't worry about me. Never stop praying for me, as I will not for you, but don't worry too much. I will not dry up and blow away. I will survive!"

 
 

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