Monsignor Peter Cheplic was “retired from active ministry” after four men reported he’d acted out with them as a pedophile when they were children. The Newark Archdiocese assured Cheplic’s victims that Cheplic would “no longer present himself publicly as a priest,” in a letter that went out with their settlements (scanned left, click to enlarge and read).
Cheplic’s most vocal victim, Joe Capozzi, went on to write and perform in For Pete’s Sake, a one-act play about the strange relationship he had as a young boy with the priest. The play gets enthusiastic response from audiences around New York, and Cheplic’s victims were moving forward.
Then Capozzi was surprised to find, under “Prayer for Priests & Vocations” last week, the name “Rev. Msgr. Peter A. Cheplic” right up there at the top in the right hand corner of the bulletin of St. Raphael’s Parish in Livingston, New Jersey.
"A request for prayer for a priest that was credibly accused of sexual abuse by four men?” asks Capozzi. (The Church Bulletin does not mention Cheplic's crimes....) The actor/ playwright fired off a letter to the Archdiocese of Newark, and cc’d a lot of people:
“I was informed that in the bulletin of September 5, 2010, there is a request for prayers for priests of the Archdiocese of Newark," writes Capozzi. “This particular bulletin requested prayers for “Rev. Msgr. Peter A. Cheplic.
“I was also informed by the Archdiocese of Newark's attorney (Charles Carella) through my attorney that the church holds no responsibility for Cheplic's name appearing in the bulletin. Only if Cheplic himself requested to have his name put in the bulletin asking for prayers for priests could he be held liable.
"I was informed by the Archdiocese of Newark that he can no longer function as a priest and could not be referred to by these titles since he was credibly accused and a settlement was made on the behalf of me and two other men he sexually abused."
At least start calling him Mr. not Reverend Cheplic.
Joey's email to Newark Archdiocese, continued:
"I request that a printed public retraction be made through the Archdiocese of Newark and St. Raphael's Parish stating that Peter Cheplic should not be addressed in this manner as confirmed by the Archdiocese of Newark in the letter dated March 20, 2006.
“I also would appreciate a written explanation as to why Peter Cheplic was referred to in this manner,” continues Capozzi’s email.
“It is truly disturbing that the Archdiocese of Newark has truly learned NOTHING from their mistakes. I feel that I have been lied to and the terms of our settlement agreement have been broken. If this is a mistake then say that and print a public retraction in your bulletins."
Gee, Joey, you think they will?
Of course the attorney for the Catholic Church also qualified his words when he wrote the letter for the Archdiocese of Newark to the crime victims about Cheplic’s status:
“I provide this information as a courtesy and not in any way as part (or a condition) of the settlement of the above-referenced claims.” (CofA emphasis)
The Church through their attorneys did tell Capozzi:
“As part of the agreement, Mgr. Cheplic will not exercise his priestly ministry in a public way, nor will he represent the Church in any public way. He will not wear clerical dress in the Archdiocese or in any other diocese. He also will not present himself publicly as a priest.”
But there’s the old words out the side of the mouth you can expect from a corporate attorney double speaking for his client. The information in the letter to Capozzi and two plaintiffs was a “courtesy” not any kind of commitment or part of their legal settlement.
Why anyone expects Catholic Church hierarchy to do in private what they say in public after the past two decades of felony sex crimes against children uncovered, I don't understand.
'I feel that I have been lied to and the terms of our settlement agreement have been broken. If this is a mistake then say that and print a public retraction in your bulletins.'
“Again the Archdiocese holds no responsibility for Cheplic’s actions or even its church's. It is only the responsibility of the credibly accused priest.”
I'm wondering why priests removed from ministry because they sexually perpetrated on children are still held in high regard in these parishes? Of course the parishioners rarely get the whole story.
JOE CAPOZZI: They are using the many loopholes that the church and their lawyers put into these settlement agreements. This is truly disturbing. So who is responsible for putting the names in a church bulletin? Who is responsible for seeing that a priest who was credibly accused by four men of sexual abuse is no longer allowed to present himself as a priest?” Capozzi asks.
"It is amazing there is no one to take responsibility," he continues. "That's why it’s necessary to keep speaking up. That list of priests in the church bulletin shows that Cheplic is clearly still recognized by the Archdiocese of Newark as a Monsignor in the Catholic Church.
"So what was my settlement for?
"What does the letter stating that Cheplic cannot present himself as clergy mean? Cheplic lost his qualification to use such titles, so I thought. Who is responsible for what's printed in a church bulletin? If Cheplic is sick, then retract what was printed and ask for prayers for Mr. Peter Cheplic."
'I request that a printed public retraction be made through the Archdiocese of Newark and St. Raphael's Parish.'
"It is a very helpless feeling but I was actually expecting a moment like this, because I knew it would come. I knew the Catholic Church did not take this seriously. I knew it."
Previously at City of Angels on For Pete's Sake:
Friday, October 09, 2009 New one act play shows passion of going public about crimes of pedophile priest (includes excerpts from the script).
Monday, May 3, 2010 Pedo-priest victim One-Act play reading Wednesday night (re one of many readings around New York.)
Posted by Kay Ebeling, City of Angels Blog producer, September 23, 2010.
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