Priest's Accusers Blast Archdiocese for Lack of Answers

By Jason Del Rey
The Jersey Journal [Newark NJ]
January 20, 2006

The Archdiocese of Newark's Review Board has completed its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Monsignor Peter Cheplic, but won't release its findings, a spokesman for the Archdiocese said.

The Archdiocese also has yet to determine if Cheplic, on voluntary leave from his post as parochial vicar at St. Henry's Church in Bayonne, will be returned to the ministry, Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said.

Joe Capozzi, who told the Archdiocese of Newark Review Board nearly three months ago that he'd been sexually abused by Cheplic over a period of several years, said he's frustrated by the lack of information.

"They asked me to come in there to give detailed testimony and for 21/2 hours I gave them everything they asked for down to what I was wearing, what he was wearing and what type of glass he served me in," Capozzi said.

But Capozzi, Ray Capone and a third accuser who has remained anonymous are still waiting for answers. The three received letters recently from the Archdiocese saying that although the review board's investigation is complete, a decision on Cheplic's future has yet to be determined.

"I can appreciate how they feel," Goodness said of Cheplic's accusers. "They are looking for a definitive answer and the beginning of closure, and we are looking for both of those as well. But this takes time and it's not a very quick and easy answer."

"I think if they wanted closure there would be closure," Capozzi told The Jersey Journal in response. "I think personally their closure is to make us go away. But there is nothing they can do, short of removing Cheplic, that could make me disappear."

The letter sent to Capozzi reads: "The Archdiocese Review Board has completed its investigation regarding your allegation against Msgr. Peter Cheplic."

"Currently, Msgr. Cheplic remains on a voluntary leave of absence, and the question of any future ministry is being addressed through a canonical process. At this time, I am unable to provide any indication as to how long this process will take."

The letter is signed by Review Board coordinator Rosemarie Papaleo, who also is the director of the Archdiocese's Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Goodness said the review board is comparable to a grand jury in that it does not determine guilt or innocence, but "determines whether there is enough information or evidence to move forward on a canonical basis."

There apparently was, as Goodness said Archbishop John J. Myers will now take the recommendation and determine what action, if any, should be taken against Cheplic.

Three years ago, another of Cheplic's accusers received a letter from the review board stating his allegation was "credible," and he was offered counseling.

The recent letter to Capozzi also offered counseling, but the Archdiocese did not call the allegation credible. Goodness, who refused to characterize the board's findings, said the review board no longer uses the word "credible" to describe allegations.

Capozzi said the ambiguity of the letter struck him as another unsympathetic response by the Archdiocese, which he believes is harboring a "sexual predator."

He also said he believes the letters were sent out only in response to his frequent e-mails asking for updates in the case.

Goodness said the letter amounts to a "status report" that would have been sent out regardless of the e-mails, but he did say Capozzi's persistence might have sped up the process.


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