CHICAGO — A Lakeview Catholic priest has been welcomed back to his parish after both church- and state-led investigations cleared him of sexual misconduct allegations, according to church leaders.
Allegations of child abuse leveled against the Rev. Patrick Lee first surfaced in January, some dating back to 1979 when Lee was at Midlothian Church. Cardinal Blase Cupich removed Lee from his current post at Mt. Carmel to allow investigators to do their jobs.
In a statement, Cupich said state officials were contacted and ultimately determined the accusation was unfounded. Then, Cupich said, an independent review board organized by the Archdiocese of Chicago determined there was "insufficient reason to suspect" Lee had committed sexual abuse against a minor.
After the independent review board made its judgement, Cupich said he contacted Lee Saturday to inform him he could return to Mt. Carmel Catholic Church.
Cupich said while Lee has been suffering through this time, he also understands the importance of fully investigating allegations, especially as the Catholic Church as a whole has been trying to get a hold the child abuse scandal.
Members of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, where Lee has served since 2013, came to church with a smile Sunday. Given the widespread abuse over many decades, church members said they were happy action was taken.
"I’m getting a little emotional but he’s just a beautiful soul," parishioner Jan Hull said.
The sign out front welcomed Father Lee back, but he didn't attend Sunday morning's Mass.