Group Demands Pastor’s Ouster from Police
By Mike Nolan
October 3, 2013
|Barbara Blaine, Founder and President of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), holds a sidewalk news conference outside the Archdiocese of Chicago headquarters on Thursday. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media|
A group that represents victims of clergy abuse is calling on the Archdiocese of Chicago to remove the Rev. Robert Stepek from a job he’s held for nearly seven years as a police department counselor in Burbank.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests President Barbara Blaine, speaking Thursday outside the archdiocese offices, said Stepek, former pastor at St. Albert the Great Church in Burbank, “should not be in a position of power and authority over people.”
At least three men have accused Stepek of sexually abusing them when they were boys, and the archdiocese previously had found credible the allegations of two brothers who alleged they were abused by Stepek when he was at St. Symphorosa Church in Chicago in the early 1980s.
The archdiocese removed Stepek from the ministry at St. Albert in November 2006 while the allegations were being investigated. The priest filed a defamation lawsuit against the brothers, claiming they were fabricating their allegations in hopes of a large cash payouts.
The brothers, in August 2007, filed their own lawsuit against Stepek, which later was settled out of court.
While the archdiocese’s findings tended to buttress the brothers’ claims, the Vatican said last month that, following “two lengthy” trials by a canonical court, the court “was unable to find evidence strong enough to merit a judgment that Fr. Stepek had sexually abused a minor,” according to a Sept. 15 statement released by the archdiocese.
However, according to the statement, that same court found that Stepek had “engaged in behaviors inappropriate for a priest” and would not have a ministerial assignment and his “faculties to minister are restricted.”
While Stepek remained “a priest in good canonical standing in the Church,” he had asked Cardinal Francis George to allow him to retire early from active ministry “for health and family reasons,” a request the cardinal granted, the archdiocese said.
Stepek’s retirement was effective Sept. 10, Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said.
Blaine and two other SNAP members tried to deliver a letter Thursday to the cardinal, demanding he oust Stepek from the Burbank job, but were told he was not available to personally accept it but that it would be given to him.
Blaine said she was dismayed by the Vatican’s statement and that the cardinal should “stick with the original findings (of the archdiocese) and not put children at risk.”
Dolan said the cardinal “has no authority to remove” Stepek from the civilian job in Burbank.
Burbank Police Chief Bruce Radowicz was not available Thursday to comment on Stepek’s duties as a police counselor, and the department referred inquiries to Mayor Harry Klein, who did not respond to a message seeking comment.