Jenik’s Flock Look to Rome to Return Beloved Pastor

Jenik’s Flock Look to Rome to Return Beloved Pastor
by David Greene

An undated photo of Bishop Jon Jenik of Our Lady of Refuge Church from the website of the Archdiocese of New York.

Despite a steady rain several hundred parishioners of Our Lady of Refuge on the Bedford Park – Kingsbridge border, turned out for a march through the streets– in support of Bishop John Jenik, who was removed as pastor 9 days earlier by the Archdiocese of New York, after an investigative body of the church, deemed an allegation from the 1980’s as credible.

Jenik, 74, one of only four Auxiliary Bishops in New York, voluntarily stepped down and sent a letter, delivered along with a letter from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a day before the bombshell story appeared in the New York Times.

The letter from Dolan stated, “The Lay Review Board has carefully examined the allegation, which concerns incidents from decades ago, and concluded that this evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”

In Jenik’s farewell letter, he told his church, “I continue to steadfastly deny that I ever abused anyone at anytime. Therefore, I will ask the Vatican… to review the matter, with the hope of ultimately proving my innocence.” Members of the church have already begun circulating petitions supporting Jenik.

On November 3, Members of the church sent Dolan their own letter stating that his letter, “confused us, saddened our spirits and unsettled our hearts.”

The letter continued, “We are sorry that this allegation of “inappropriate behavior” was not discussed with us, the parishioners of Our Lady of Refuge before Bishop Jenik was asked to step aside.”

Minutes after speaking in front of the television cameras outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one-time New York Times and NY 1 freelance reporter Michael Meenan, 52, alleged Jenik began their illegal relationship when he was just 13 years-old, in an exclusive telephone interview.

Bishop John Jenik takes the floor during a public safety forum with Police Commissioner James O’Neil, at Our Lady of Refuge back on April 3.–Photo by David Greene

Meenan stated, “John Jenik should never have had access to young boys… I don’t think he should have been ordained because he has a disturbed and dangerous predilection for boys and that’s not a winning solution for children who need support and guidance.”

Recalling his days as a beat reporter, Meenan concluded, “I was working for the New York Times doing stories in the neighborhood on shooting’s and other incidents, don’t you think I was considering how I was going to reveal the truth of what this man did to me?” Meenan added, “The laws in Albany need to change.”

Bishop John Jenik listens from the side of the room as police commissioner James O’Neil address the community during an April public safety meeting.–Photo by David Greene

In September, the New York State Attorney General’s office became one of over a dozen states to launch civil investigations into alleged cover up of sexual abuse in the church, after a grand jury in Pennsylvania found abuse and cover up claims involving 300 priests. In October, the church was ordered to preserve all documents relating to sex abuse after the Department of Justice launched its own probe.

Sex abuse advocate Robert Hoatson holds up sign calling for support of Bishop John Jenik’s alleged victim.–Photo by David Greene

Church member Peter Lin said shortly after marching through the neighborhood, “We’re here today to let people know how much we love him and how much he loves us. We’ve been here a long time with him and he’s a very good pastor. All of my kids go to this school with his support and there all doing very good, we’ve never had a problem. I don’t believe the allegation, no.”

A large crowd of churchgoers from Our Lady of Refuge march towards the Grand Concourse in the rain in support of Bishop John Jenik.–Photo by David Greene

Robert Hoatson of the New Jersey-based ‘Road to Recovery’ which supports sexual abuse victims and their families, who has been working with Meehan for several years, greeted marchers with a sign stating, “Support Jenik’s Victim.” Hoatson said of the marchers, “They should be supporting the victims, not those who may have allegedly abused the victims.”

Supporters of all ages and races turned out in support of Bishop John Jenik, who stepped down after a sexual allegation surfaced from the 1980’s.–Photo by David Greene

As marchers returned to Monsignor Nemec Hall, a heckling match ensued across East 196 Street as Hoatson shouted, “Cardinal Dolan said he was credibly accused!” A woman across the street shouted back, “Where’s your victim,?” as a second woman cried out, “He’s waiting for the money.”

The church is asking anyone with a similar claim to first call authorities, before contacting the church’s Safe Environment Program’s New York State Hotline at 1 (800) 342-3720.

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