Archdiocese reinstates Chicago priest after investigation finds abuse allegation ‘unfounded’

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CHICAGO — A former Chicago priest has been reinstated after the archdiocese said a sexual abuse allegation against him was found to be unfounded.

In a letter to parishioners, Cardinal Blase Cupich said a "thorough investigation" found an allegation against Father William McFarlane was unfounded, and he would be reinstated.

McFarlane formerly worked at the Nativity of Our Lord and St. Gabriel Parish in Bridgeport. He was also removed as pastor of St. Gabriel parish in Cannaryville, the same church where he was raised, after the allegations were made public.

"Following the determination by state officials charged with the protection of minors, that the allegation was unfounded, the Independent Review Board of the Archdiocese of Chicago studied the matter," Cupich said in the letter.

This past summer, allegations against father McFarlane went public. The priest was accused of sexually abusing a minor back in 1997, prior to him ever attending seminary.

"The Board found that there was insufficient reason to suspect that Father McFarlane had committed sexual abuse of a minor," Cupich wrote. "Therefore, I am restoring Father McFarlane to active ministry, effective immediately."

Cupich said McFarlane’s new assignment will be announced shortly. Some parishioners said they are thrilled at the prospect of him returning.

In a statement, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it would not look into the case.

“We have not been contacted to review this matter for criminal charges by law enforcement, who would handle the initial investigation," the office said in a statement.

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