In a pastoral letter to New York Catholics Wednesday, Cdl. Timothy Dolan announced a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been made against Auxiliary Bp. John Jenik.
The archdiocesan Lay Review Board, Cdl. Dolan reported, "has carefully examined the allegation, which concerns incidents from decades ago, and concluded that the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated." He explained the allegation surfaced during the process of the archdiocesan Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) — a compensation fund set up for victims of clerical sex abuse.
Accuser Michael J. Meenan, 52, said Wednesday he first notified the archdiocese about the alleged abuse in January. He claims Jenik abused him from 1980 to 1986, beginning at age 13. Meenan said Jenik first took an interest in him during confession, and within months was taking him out to dinner and plying him with alcohol. From there, Meenan claims, Jenik began taking him for overnight stays to a house he owned in the Hudson River valley, north of the city.
Over time, Meenan said, the priest grew bolder.
"The weirdest, creepiest half was how he was placing my mouth subsequent to his mouth, as if he was taking my breath," he recalled.
Meenan said he came forward in an effort to purge himself of anger stemming from the alleged abuse. "It's got to go," he said.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian — a key player in the 2002 case against the Boston archdiocese — is representing Meenan.
Garabedian described the case as "just another indication of how far up the power structure of the Catholic Church sexual inappropriateness exists."
For his part, Jenik has denied Meenan's allegation. In a letter to his parishioners, he wrote:
While I have the utmost respect for both the IRCP 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. 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.
Jenik was appointed auxiliary bishop in 2014. He has served at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in the Bronx since 1978, first as pastoral associate, and since 1985, as pastor; over the years, he made a name for himself as an advocate for affordable housing and safer neighborhoods.
In 2015, Cdl. Dolan tapped Jenik to for damage control at St. Francis de Chantal Catholic Church, where Fr. Peter Miqueli was accused of embezzling parishioners' money to fund drug-laced sex romps with a gay-for-pay prostitute — an affair that sparked a lawsuit against Dolan and the archdiocese of New York.
The Jenik scandal is just the latest public relations disaster to befall the New York archdiocese.
In September, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced an investigation into clerical sex abuse and cover-up by Church officials in the archdiocese and across the state.
In June, the archdiocese revealed that as a New York priest, Theodore McCarrick sexually abused minors — at least one inside St. Patrick's Cathedral itself.
In November 2017, Church Militant reported that since 2009, the archdiocese has lost more than $122 million in operating expenses, and that, owing to declining parishioner numbers, officials are cutting the number of Masses offered. Meanwhile, it has mortgaged $100 million in property and launched a $200 million capital campaign to enlist remaining parishioners to help cover tens of millions of dollars in clerical sex abuse claims.
Church Militant reached out the New York archdiocese for comment Wednesday, but received no response.