On Thursday, the Vatican announced that New York Auxiliary Bp. John Jenik is stepping down, nearly two years after he was first accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy.
Jenik, 75, was removed from ministry in October 2018 after a nine-month investigation by the archdiocesan lay review board.
Announcing the bishop's departure, Cdl. Timothy Dolan reported that the board had "carefully examined the allegation, which concerns incidents from decades ago, and concluded that the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated."
Dolan explained that 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.
Speaking to the press in the wake of the cardinal's announcement, accuser Michael J. Meenan said he first notified the archdiocese of the alleged abuse in January 2018.
Meenan claims Jenik abused him from 1980 to 1986, beginning at age 13. He said Jenik first took an interest in him during confession and within months had begun grooming him by taking him to dinner and plying him with alcohol.
From there, Meenan claims, Jenik began taking him for overnight stays to a house the priest owned in the Hudson River Valley. Over time, he said, Jenik grew bolder, groping him in bed.
"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.
Jenik has denied accusations of wrongdoing. 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 ordained a priest in 1970. In 1985, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in the Bronx, where he remained until his removal from ministry.
Over the years, the priest made a name for himself as an advocate for affordable housing and safer neighborhoods, and in 2014, he was appointed auxiliary bishop.
In 2015, Cdl. Dolan tapped Jenik 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.
Church officials have not commented on the results of their preliminary investigation into Meenan's allegations.