CHICAGO (CBS) — Cardinal Blase Cupich has removed a pastor from his church, amid an allegation of code of conduct violations involving a minor. The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago said it does not have full details of the allegations against Fr. Gary Graf, pastor of San Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio parish.
Cupich sent the parish a letter this weekend, explaining Graf has agreed to step aside while the Archdiocese investigates.
“I realize this news comes at a difficult time, especially as you come together as one parish and celebrate your future as a faith community. Please know that I am close to you in prayer. My simple request is that God grant you the grace of patience as we work to evaluate this allegation. Only in this way can we remain true to our promise to safeguard our parishioners, especially children and youth, our most important concern,” Cupich wrote.
Bishop Alberto Rojas will serve as administrator of the parish, pending the outcome of the investigation. The Archdiocese has promised to keep the parish informed of any developments in the case.
The parish is made up of three churches that have merged into one – St. Francis Assisi in University Village, St. Philomena in Hermosa, and Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Humboldt Park.
Maternity BVM deacon Milton Rodriguez said everyone in the parish was shocked to learn of the allegation against Graf. He said, when Graf took over the three churches in the parish on July 1, “he came with good spirit, and he was very so happy.”
“It’s not easy for us,” Rodriguez said.
In July, Graf was part of a delegation of Chicago area priests who visited the Mexican border. In June, Graf led the funeral service for fallen Chicago Fire Department diver Juan Bucio. In February, he participated in a hunger strike in support of so-called “Dreamers” – young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. without documentation, but lived most of their lives in the U.S.
Cupich spoke to CBS 2 on Monday about recent sexual assault allegations within the Catholic Church.
“I would say we in the Archdiocese of Chicago have a solid record of addressing any misbehavior by priests with regard to minors, or even adults,” Cupich said. “We’re public about it. We go to parishes. Tell them what’s going on. We’re transparent. We take swift action, and also we continue to do safe environment training for everyone. We do background checks.”
On Monday, the Illinois Attorney General’s office set up a hotline for people to report allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy. That number is 1-888-414-7678.