|Allegations against Priest Found Not to Be Credible
Diocese of Brooklyn News Release
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has announced that an allegation of improper sexual behavior with a minor against Father Richard M. Lewkiewicz, when he was a parochial vicar in Blessed Sacrament parish in Cypress Hills more than 30 years ago, has "no merit and no credibility."
The Bishop made the statement in a letter he wrote to parishioners of Our Lady of Angels parish in Bay Ridge, where Father Lewkiewicz has been a parochial vicar since 1998.
Msgr. Kevin B. Noone, the Episcopal Vicar for the Brooklyn West Vicariate, read the letter at the seven Masses at Our Lady of Angels last weekend, Oct. 30-31.
Stating that the parochial vicar will continue his priestly ministry at the Bay Ridge parish, Bishop DiMarzio said: "I know that this has lifted a heavy burden from Father Lewkiewicz' shoulders."
The Bishop also said he was aware that Father Lewkiewicz "has been encouraged and touched" by the support of parishioners "during this difficult period in his life." They responded with hearty applause when the news was announced at the Masses.
Bishop DiMarzio said he directed the Diocesan Review Board to investigate the allegation of sexual misconduct. The panel is composed primarily of lay persons from the fields of the law, law enforcement, medicine, social service and education.
"At the beginning of the investigation, the review board sought assistance by retaining the services of a respected private investigator with many years of experience examining child sexual abuse cases as a member of the New York City Police Department," the Bishop wrote.
After the investigator conducted "an extensive series of interviews over a considerable period of time" with persons associated with Blessed Sacrament parish when the alleged misconduct was said to have taken place and with Father Lewkiewicz' accuser, the Bishop said the review board concluded that the allegation had "no merit and no credibility."
The board "found no evidence" that the priest had sexually abused a minor, the Bishop said, adding that the board determined that his reputation "as a person of character faithful to his priestly vocation was well deserved."
Bishop DiMarzio said he reviewed the board's report and the investigator's findings and accepted their conclusions and recommendation that Father Lewkiewicz remain in ministry.
The Bishop also observed that from the time the allegation was made public a year ago, Father Lewkiewicz "firmly and consistently" denied that he ever engaged in improper sexual behavior.
The procedures followed in the investigation were in accordance with the "Charter for the Protection of Young People" and the accompanying Norms, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, the Bishop said.
In his letter, Bishop DiMarzio also addressed press reports that implied that the Diocese should have removed Father Lewkiewicz immediately once the accusation was received. "This is not the case," he said. "An allegation is to be investigated before such an action is taken."
Only after an allegation is determined to be credible must a bishop remove a clergyman from ministry, he noted.
Father Lewkiewicz served in Blessed Sacrament from the time of his ordination in l968 until l979. He was a parochial vicar at St. Camillus parish in Rockaway Park from l979 to l988 and at Good Shepherd parish, Marine Park, from l988 until he was assigned to Our Lady of Angels a decade later.
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