Shaken by allegations of sexual misconduct, Monsignor Peter Cheplic has been cooperating fully with the Archdiocese of Newark, church officials said.
“He is cooperating fully with our review,” said Jim Goodness, spokesperson for the Archdiocese. “He comes in whenever we ask him. But he remains out of the ministry until our investigations are concluded.
The 59-year old Union City native voluntarily stepped down from his post at St. Henry’s Parish in Bayonne after a Review Board for the Archdiocese of Newark began an investigation into newly reported charges.
Several men have filed separate complaints with the church claiming Cheplic had abused them at various points in the 1970s through 1990s
The first charge against Cheplic was brought three years ago by Martin Kansky, 45, of Ridgefield from an alleged incident during the 1970s when Kansky was 18 years old and Cheplic served as pastor of St. Matthew’s Church in Ridgefield.
Although a church review of the incident ruled that the charge was “credible”, Cheplic was reassigned to St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken and church officials offered Kansky counseling.
Cheplic was to serve with several restrictions that kept him from any unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 21.Cheplic could preside over Mass, even administer sacraments, but could not be left alone with the young alter servers.
Goodness said the church did not act recklessly in allowing Cheplic to return to duties after the first accusation.
“When Martin Kansky first informed the Archdiocese in 2002 of the allegation, local county prosecutors were notified. These prosecutors chose to take no action under state law.,” Goodness said. “When the Archdiocesan Response Team – a group of lay people that reviews allegations against clergy in the Archdiocese – investigated this matter in 2002 and 2003, it did not conduct a ‘trial’ to determine guilt, but rather an inquiry to see if the matter be dealt with under appropriate Church law. While it ultimately deemed the allegation credible, not all of the information presented was credible.”
At the time, Kansky’s was the only allegation made against Cheplic over the Monsignor’s 35 years of service.
“In light of this fact, the Archdiocese did determine that a return to a limited ministry – including a requirement that Monsignor be supervised when dealing with anyone under 21 years of age – was permitted.”
Last August left St. Lawrence to become a parochial vicar at St. Henry’s Church in Bayonne, but stepped down when additional allegations surfaced by two men who said Cheplic had abused them sexually in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Raymond Capone, 40, of South Plainfield claimed an incident that occurred in 1985 when Cheplic was assigned to an East Orange Church. Joseph Capozzi, 36,of Manhattan, claimed several incidents in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Recently a third charge has been filed with the church, but the victim has declined to make public his name.
Goodness said the new allegations are being investigated and that the review board is meeting.
“There has been no finding yet,” he said. “The investigation remains open. Meanwhile Monsignor Cheplic remains out of ministry.”