Catholic bishop steps down over decades-old sex abuse claim

A Catholic bishop in the Bronx has “stepped aside from public ministry” after church officials deemed a decades-old claim that he sexually abused a minor “credible and substantiated,” the Archdiocese of New York said Wednesday.

The allegation of “inappropriate behavior” was lodged against auxiliary Bishop John Jenik, of Our Lady of Refuge, by a single person and investigated by the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, according to a letter from Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

The accuser was a teenage boy in the 1980s, when he allegedly was abused by Jenik, sources said.

“Although the alleged incidents occurred decades ago, the Lay Review Board has concluded that the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated,” Dolan’s letter to parishioners said.

The Lay Review Board is an independent team comprised of judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, parents, child care experts who review IRCP’s findings.

This is the only allegation of sexual misconduct ever lodged against Jenik, according to Dolan.

In his own letter, the 74-year-old holy man said he would appeal to the Vatican to review the accusations “with the hope of ultimately proving my innocence.”

“This is the hardest letter I have ever had to write in my 48 years of priesthood,” Jenik wrote to parishioners of his Fordham Manor church. “While I have the utmost respect for both the IRCP and the Review Board, and know that they have a great burden as they confront the evil of sexual abuse, I continue to steadfastly deny that I have ever abused anyone at anytime.”

Dolan said pending the Rome review, Jenik “may not function or present himself as a bishop or priest.”

Jenik, who is currently recovering from hip surgery, with a second one scheduled in the coming month, said he would “not be publicly exercising my ministry.”

“Would you also please pray for the person who brought this allegation against me, and for all those who are victim-survivors of abuse?” Jenik concluded the letter. “You will all have a special place in my prayers and in my heart, and I sure need a place in yours.”

Jenik was appointed as an auxiliary bishop to assist Dolan by Pope Francis in 2014.

He has served at Our Lady of Refuge since 1978.

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