ORADELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The pastor of a northern New Jersey church is stepping down amid parishioners’ complaints that a priest accused of molesting a teenage boy was allowed to temporarily live in the church rectory.
The Star-Ledger reports the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Iwanowski, will leave the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Oradell on July 31.
The departure comes amid complaints about the Rev. Robert Chabak, who was removed from ministry in 2004. That came after church officials determined there was evidence to support allegations he molested a teenage boy in the 1970s.
The statute of limitations had expired and Chabak was not criminally charged. Chabak wasn’t removed from the priesthood altogether but was stripped of his priestly faculties, meaning he can’t wear a collar or represent himself as a priest.
The 66-year-old Chabak has lived in Toms River in recent years. But when his home was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, archdiocese officials allowed him to live at St. Joseph “out of a sense of compassion.”
In announcing his departure earlier this month, Iwanowksi said he met with Newark Archbishop John Myers on July 5 “to discuss the situation here.” The two decided “it would be best” for Iwanowski to move ‘forward in faith.”’
The departure message did not refer to Chabak, who was removed from St. Joseph in February and transferred to a retirement home for priests in Rutherford. But parishioners said Chabak then repeatedly came back to St. Joseph to spend the night.
Chabak, who has now returned to his Toms River home, declined comment on the matter. But Iwanowski told the newspaper that he didn’t see the harm in Chabak’s staying at the church.
“He lived in the rectory and went to Mass every day. He didn’t do anything else,” Iwanowski said.
Archbishop Myers came under fire earlier this year for allowing a once-accused pedophile priest at Colts Neck church youth retreats.
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