Monsignor Assigned to Weehawken Church after Sex Abuse Charges Were Filed
Cheplic Served at St. Lawrence after Accusations Were Lodged

By Jim Hague
Weehawken Reporter [Weehawken NJ]
October 23, 2005

A well-respected and revered monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church was assigned to a Weehawken church last year, even after archdiocese officials had what was deemed "credible information" concerning accusations of sexual abuse of young boys by the priest during his ministry.

According to Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, Monsignor Peter Cheplic was assigned to St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in 2004, even though there were charges of sexual abuse hovering over him.

Cheplic, who left St. Lawrence to become a parochial vicar at St. Henry's Church in Bayonne in August, after new allegations about his behavior were revealed by two different men who said they were abused by Cheplic in the 1980s and early 1990s, has now been removed from his ministry.

Allegations from the shore

The first allegations against Cheplic came in 2002, when Martin Kansky told Archdiocese of Newark officials that Cheplic molested Kansky at a shore house in 1978, when Kansky was 18 years old and Cheplic was the pastor of St. Matthew's Church in Ridgefield. At the time of the first allegation, Cheplic was the pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Jersey City.

When news of the first allegation took place, an announcement was made to the parishioners of St. Aloysius, stating that Cheplic was being removed from his ministry while the archdiocese conducted an investigation "regarding an allegation of sexual misconduct."

However, a year later, Cheplic was reinstated as a priest by Archbishop John J. Myers because Myers decided that it was only the first incident lodged against Cheplic and the incident did not involve a minor.

According to the Catholic Church's Web site concerning the Protection of Children and Young People, "a single act of abuse of a minor by a cleric, past, present, or future, which has been admitted or otherwise determined, will bring about his removal from ministry." But Kansky had already turned 18 by the time of the first alleged incident.

A reassignment

When Cheplic was allowed to regain his privileges as a priest, he was assigned to St. Lawrence in Weehawken. Goodness said that Cheplic was allowed to return, only after agreeing to "certain kinds of restrictions."

"He could never be a pastor again and could not be involved in any unsupervised ministry with someone under the age of 21," Goodness said.

Cheplic was allowed to preside over Mass and administer sacraments, but could not be left alone with altar servers.

In published reports, Kansky, now 45 and living in Tennessee with his wife and children, alleges that he visited Cheplic at a beach house on the Jersey shore in Lavallette, where the priest and Kansky shared several mixed drinks and beers. They went to sleep in separate bedrooms, but Kansky said that he was awoken in the middle of the night with Cheplic apparently molesting him.

Kansky told archdiocese officials about the incident in March of 2002. A year later, the archdiocese wrote back to Kansky, stating that the allegation was "credible" and that they offered to pay for psychological therapy and counseling, which Kansky refused.

"There was never any apology whatsoever," Kansky said in reports in the Jersey Journal and the Record of Hackensack. "For a church that is supposed to be compassionate, you didn't see it."

Ironically, the letter that was sent to Kansky came from Rev. Robert Emery, who is the vicar general for the Archdiocese of Newark and is the former pastor at St. Lawrence Church. Emery and Cheplic worked together at St. Lawrence briefly, before Cheplic moved on to St. Henry's and Emery went to work full-time for the Archdiocese as the right hand man to Archbishop Myers.

Two more allegations

Now, there have been two more allegations of abuse brought to the attention of archdiocese officials.

One of which has been lodged by 36-year-old Joe Capozzi of Cliffside Park, who informed archdiocese officials last month that Cheplic molested him as well while Cheplic was working at St. Matthew's in Ridgefield, where Cheplic worked from 1972 through 1985.

Capozzi said that the abuse actually took place when he was a teenager and Cheplic was already assigned to St. Joseph of the Palisades in West New York.

Another unnamed man has also come forward to say that he was also molested by Cheplic during Cheplic's days at St. Matthew's in Ridgefield.

Capozzi claims that he was repeatedly molested from the ages of 16 through 20. The other anonymous victim told archdiocese officials that he was molested between the ages of 17 and 20.

Goodness said that all of the information gathered by the Archdiocese Response Team, the information-gathering agency for the archdiocese, which serves 1.7 million Roman Catholics in Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties, was turned over to the Hudson County Prosecutors Office to see if Cheplic faces any criminal charges in the matter.

Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and Ocean County Prosecutor's Office officials determined that they needed more time to investigate the matter. Ocean County is involved because it is where alleged molestations took place.

Both parishioners and St. Lawrence Church officials declined to speak about Cheplic's situation for this report.


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