The latest allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church come from New York, where a bishop has been accused of abusing a minor decades ago.
Auxiliary Bishop John Jenik, 74, will be stepping aside as an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of a minor is underway. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, made the announcement Wednesday in a video message posted to his website.
“This is sad. It’s sad for all of us. It’s sad for the victim and I sure appreciate that victim coming forward,” Dolan said in the video message.
Bishop denies allegations
Jenik denied the allegations and sent a letter to Our Lady of Refuge Parish in the Bronx, where he has served since 1978.
“While I have the utmost respect for the [Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program] 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 any time,” Jenik wrote.
In his letter, Jenik says he wants the Vatican to look over the matter “with the hope of ultimately proving my innocence.”
The details of the allegations have not been released by the Archdiocese of New York or the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
Alleged victim was a teenage boy
Michael J. Meenan, 52, the alleged victim, told CNN he was 13 when he met Jenik at Our Lady of Refuge Church in the Bronx.
Meenan said Jenik, who was a priest at the time, gained his trust after an emotional confessional in which he told Jenik about family problems he was having. That led to an inappropriate relationship that lasted until he was 18 years old, said Meenan.
“What this guy did to me he should get jail time,” said Meenan.
After the confession, Jenik would take him out alone a lot over the years, added Meenan. “He would take me to restaurants, drinking and always to a faraway neighborhood. He liked to do what he called ‘getting freaky’ and eat things like fried jelly fish.” He also took him to at least two movies that showed anal rape, according to Meenan.
Over the years, Meenan said Jenik would often take the teenager to Jenik’s house in Tivoli, New York, where they would stay alone. “I would spend the night there every New Year’s Eve, but we would always sleep in separate rooms,” said Meenan.
One time, when Meenan was about 15, Jenik invited him to the house with other people and they stayed in the same bed. “This time we were drunk and he put me in bed alone with him. He got into bed and began to grope me.”
According to Meenan, Jenik rubbed him up and down on both sides of his body and then put his mouth inches from the boy’s mouth as if he was going to kiss him. Then Jenik put his head on Meenan’s shoulder.
“It went on for about 20 minutes and I froze,” said Meenan.
CNN does not normally identify alleged victims of sexual abuse unless they choose to talk about it.
Letter sent to parishioners
Dolan sent a letter to Our Lady of Refuge Parish on October 29 explaining the situation regarding Jenik. He told the parish he wanted the news to come from him and not secondhand or from the media.
“This is the first time any such allegation about him was ever made. 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,” wrote Dolan. The Lay Review Board is made up of judges, attorneys, psychiatrists, psychologists, parents, child care experts and others, according to Dolan.
In the letter to parishioners, Dolan also explained that the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, or IRCP, is investigating. IRCP was established in 2016 in the New York archdiocese to assist victims and survivors of sexual abuse by a bishop, priest or deacon. IRCP is administered by outside experts who have pledged to also notify the district attorney.
Dolan also called for anyone else who may have “any allegations or concerns about Bishop Jenik” to come forward and contact the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
Bronx DA spokeswoman Denisse Moreno told CNN the office was informed about the allegation from the archdiocese and it has already investigated, “but the alleged incident happened beyond the statute of limitations.”
Meenan is applying for compensation for his abuse claim through the IRCP because it no longer falls within New York State’s statute of limitations.