A longtime Chicago-area priest was reinstated to his Lake View church after an allegation he sexually abused a minor nearly 40 years ago at a South Side parish was determined to be “unfounded.”
In January, the Rev. Patrick Lee was removed as pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont, Ave., as an investigation into an allegation he abused a minor in 1979 while assigned to St. Christopher Parish in Midlothian played out.
Church officials forwarded the complaint to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
Cardinal Blase Cupich announced Saturday in a letter to parishioners that Lee was being reinstated after state officials found the allegation to be “unfounded” and the Independent Review Board of the Archdiocese of Chicago found there was “insufficient reason to suspect” Lee committed the crime.
”Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that I am reinstating Father Lee as your pastor effective immediately,” Cupich stated in the letter, which was to be shared with all parishes in the archdiocese.
”I am resolved to see that Father Lee’s good name is restored,” he said, noting that Lee fully cooperated with civil and church authorities and embraced church policies to protect children.
Lee lived away from the parish while the allegation was investigated.
Reached Sunday, DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch confirmed Cupich’s statement regarding the investigation.
“What they said is true. The investigation was closed as unfounded,” he said. Due to privacy concerns, he was unable to provide any further details, he said.
A message left with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office Sunday was not returned.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported in December that the Catholic church in Illinois had dramatically underreported the number of priests with sexual misconduct allegations. Her office identified 500 clergy members in Illinois with sex allegation that dated back decades. Across Illinois — which is broken into six Catholic “dioceses,” each headed by a bishop and based on geography — the church has publicly identified 185 clergy with credible accusations of child abuse, according to Madigan.
Following Madigan’s report, the church released names of several former priests and deacons, some now dead, who had substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct made against them.