Burbank Priest Steps down Amid Allegations

The Associated Press, carried in Chicago Sun-Times [Burbank IL]
May 23, 2006

A suburban priest who had planned to celebrate his 25th anniversary in the ministry last week has voluntarily stepped down amid allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.

The allegations involve abuse of minors more than 20 years ago and an investigation has just begun, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed Tuesday.

The Rev. Robert Stepek has "has voluntarily and temporarily absented himself" from St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank, archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said. More than one allegation has been reported, Dwyer said, but he would not specify how many.

"The action is not a judgment nor is it a removal from ministry," Dwyer said. "Father Stepek has agreed to live in a private setting away from the parish until these allegations are resolved."

The archdiocese reported the allegations to the Cook County State's Attorney's office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Dwyer said. Both agencies confirmed Tuesday they had received reports, and DCFS said it was investigating.

A letter about the allegations and Stepek's absence was read Sunday at the Mass the priest usually performs, Dwyer said. A 25th anniversary celebration in Stepek's honor has been postponed.

Stepek's voluntary absence this early in the investigation is new for the archdiocese, Dwyer said. The archdiocese and Cardinal Francis George were harshly criticized for waiting too long to remove the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who has been charged with molesting five boys.

McCormack was removed from his parish when he first was charged in January--several months after one of the allegations was made against him.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a victims advocacy group, said Tuesday the archdiocese should hold open meetings at all the parishes where Stepek has worked and encourage people to report information to the police.

"What's happening here is deception. It's not openness and it's not transparency," SNAP President Barbara Blaine said.

Dwyer disputed Blaine's complaints.

"The idea that this is secrecy is absurd," Dwyer said. "The only reason Barbara Blaine thinks it's secrecy is because we didn't call up and tell her."


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