Priest's Victim Blasts Archdiocese

By John Chadwick [Newark NJ]
October 13, 2005

When the Newark Archdiocese concluded an investigation of a former Ridgefield priest in 2003, church officials said the findings were clear.

They told the accuser in a terse letter that his allegations of sexual misconduct against the Rev. Peter Cheplic were "credible" and offered to pay for counseling.

"That was all I ever heard from them," said Martin Kansky, a former altar boy who came forward in 2002 with accusations that Cheplic molested him in 1978. "I had no idea what happened."

But Kansky learned last month through news reports that the archdiocese allowed Cheplic to keep his collar and return to parish ministry.

And he's outraged about the reason.

Church officials said they didn't remove Cheplic because Kansky was 18 at the time of the incident and was legally an adult.

"What does age have to do with this?" Kansky, who grew up attending St. Matthew's Church in Ridgefield and now lives in Tennessee, said in a telephone interview. "The church is essentially saying it's OK for a priest to molest anyone they want, as long as the person is 18 or over."

Cheplic continued working in Hudson County parishes until August, when a 36-year-old Manhattan man told the archdiocese that Cheplic molested him in the 1980s. A third accuser emerged in September, saying he, too, was molested in the 1980s. Cheplic is now out of ministry pending an investigation of these two cases.

A spokesman for the archdiocese defended the handling of the case, saying Cheplic was disciplined and placed under supervision after the 2003 investigation.

Jim Goodness said Cheplic was prohibited from serving as a pastor - the priest who runs the parish - and was barred from ministering to people under the age of 21 without supervision.

And he said Cheplic was assigned to pastors who held top administrative posts in the archdiocese and had been briefed on the case.

"Up to that point, we had an allegation of a single incident, and it didn't involve a minor," Goodness said. "It was determined that [removal from ministry] wasn't an appropriate action. But the archdiocese did take very specific steps to make sure the individuals who would be working with him were well aware of what was going on and could grasp the importance of the need for supervision."

Kansky said Cheplic should have been barred from parish work.

"At the very least, he should have been shuffling papers at the chancery," he said.

Cheplic, who served at St. Matthew's from 1972 to 1985, couldn't be reached for comment.

Kansky said Cheplic was a close friend of his family and had invited him to spend the night at Cheplic's summer residence in Lavallette during July 1978.

After dinner and drinks, Kansky said he and Cheplic went to sleep in separate bedrooms.

"I woke up in the middle of the night to find Cheplic in my room," he said. "My gym shorts had been removed, and he was touching me inappropriately and kissing me."

Kansky said he indicated through body language that he didn't want to be touched. And he said Cheplic then left.

Kansky said he reported the case in 2002 after his mother disclosed the incident to another priest.

"I just wanted the church to know the truth," he said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.