Christ the King parish priest asked to step aside in light of sexual assault allegation

Chicago Tribune

April 21, 2021

By Mike Nolan, Daily Southtown

The pastor at Christ the King parish on Chicago’s Southwest Side was asked to step aside following a report alleging he sexually assaulted a minor 36 years ago when he was 18, according to a letter Wednesday from Cardinal Blase Cupich.

In the letter to parish families, Cupich said that the Rev. Larry Sullivan will live away from the parish while the allegation is investigated and that the Rev. James Mezydlo, pastor of St. Walter Church, will take over Sullivan’s duties at the parish and school.

Sullivan, in a letter emailed to Christ the King parishioners Monday, said he became aware of an accusation against him that had been posted on social media.

He wrote the incident occurred in 1984 and while he was at a fast-food restaurant “I made unwelcome verbal comments to a female employee that upset her to the extent that her parents and the police were contacted.”

Sullivan wrote that there was no physical contact between himself and the young woman.

“I was then, and am now, ashamed and deeply sorry that my words caused pain and hardship to her,” the pastor wrote in the letter, now posted on the parish website. “I pray that my accuser accepts my sincere apology and that it provides her with healing.”

Ann Marie Riordan, principal of Christ the King School, did not return messages seeking comment about the allegations.

Cupich said that the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review learned of the allegation against Sullivan this week.

“Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cupich wrote. “Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.”

Cupich said the allegation has also been referred to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney.

Sullivan has been pastor at Christ the King, 9235 S. Hamilton Ave., in the Beverly community, since 2014, and before that was pastor at St. Christina, 11005 S. Homan Ave., from 2008 until 2014, according to the archdiocese. He was pastor for 16 years at St. Celestine in Elmwood Park. Sullivan is also the priest director for Catholic Cemeteries.