NEW YORK CITY — A New York auxiliary bishop has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the Archdiocese of New York has reported. Bishop John Jenik, 74, maintains his innocence.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced in an Oct. 29 letter to parishioners of a Bronx parish that “an allegation of inappropriate behavior with one person was brought against Bishop Jenik, who has served at Our Lady of Refuge since 1978.”
“This was the first time any such allegation about him was ever made,” Cardinal Dolan added.
Cardinal Dolan’s letter, which was posted Oct. 31 on the Archdiocese of New York’s website, explained that the claim was reviewed by the diocesan lay review board, which concluded that “the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”
The case will be reviewed by the Vatican, most likely at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sources says, before being passed to Pope Francis for judgment. Canon law establishes that only the pope may judge a penal matter involving a bishop, unless the pope delegates that responsibility elsewhere.
Cardinal Dolan specified that the allegation involved a minor in his Oct. 31 letter on the archdiocesan website.
“Bishop Jenik, loyal priest that he is, has stepped aside from public ministry, and, as we await Rome’s review, may not function or present himself as a bishop or priest,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.
Bishop Jenik also wrote a letter to the parishioners of Our Lady of Refuge, the parish at which he has served as pastor since 1985.
“While I have the utmost respect for both the IRCP [Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program] and the review board, and I 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. Therefore, I will ask the Vatican, which has ultimate jurisdiction over such cases, to review the matter, with the hope of ultimately proving my innocence,” Bishop Jenik wrote.
“In the meantime, I will abide by the protocols of the archdiocese’s policy and will not be publicly exercising my ministry,” he wrote, adding that he would be “stepping aside and moving as pastor of Our Lady of Refuge until the matter is settled.”
The bishop asked parishioners to pray for the person who had accused him of abuse and “for all those who are victim-survivors of abuse.”
Bishop Jenik has been an auxiliary bishop in New York since 2014. A New York Daily News profile published shortly before he was consecrated a bishop said that Bishop Jenik is known in the Bronx as an advocate for affordable housing and as an opponent of drug dealers in his parish neighborhood.
Cardinal Dolan encouraged those with allegations or concerns about Bishop Jenik to contact the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the victim-assistance coordinator in the Archdiocese of New York.