The Rev. Larry Sullivan, pastor of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, has been asked to step aside from his duties while allegations of a sexual assault from 30 years ago are investigated.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, announced the decision in a statement on the Archdiocese of Chicago website on April 21, saying he had “difficult news” to share with parishioners of the church in North Beverly.
“I have asked Fr. Sullivan to step aside from ministry while this allegation is investigated,” Cupich said. “Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false. Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.
“Fr. Sullivan has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish.”
The allegations are contained in a video circulating on social media in which a woman accuses Sullivan of attacking her when she was 17 and working at a fast-food restaurant on the South Side.
On a Sunday night, she said, “two youngish men” came into the restaurant and ordered food. She served them, and they sat down to eat.
Near closing time, she said, she was taking out trash, and the two men followed her to the parking lot.
“Their intent was to sexually assault me,” the woman said.
One of the men, she said, attacked her while the other stood by.
“I was on the ground and kicked at him until he backed off,” she said. “I ran back into the restaurant, and my boss called the police.”
She said her parents were also called and came to the restaurant.
The woman said a responding police sergeant told her that Sullivan should be held accountable for his actions, but the family declined to press charges.
She learned that Sullivan was entering the seminary the next day to become a Catholic priest, she said, and her mother contacted “our priest.” That priest, she said, expressed similar sentiments about Sullivan’s culpability and told her parents to contact the monsignor in charge of the seminary.
Her parents followed that advice, she said, but the monsignor told the woman that “because she had smiled at those men, it was my fault.”
The video concludes with the woman calling out Sullivan.
“It’s been decades, and I have never once forgotten about you,” she said. “Remember how you said, ‘C’mon, baby, let’s have some fun’? Well, c’mon, baby, let’s have some fun.”
Cupich said the woman was a minor when the alleged attack occurred.
In a statement on the Christ the King parish website on April 19, Sullivan said he remembers the night in 1984 described in the video—but he denied physically attacking the woman, and he apologized to her.
Sullivan said he was 18 and had just finished high school when he “made unwelcome verbal comments to a female employee that upset her to the extent that her parents and the police were contacted.”
“There was no physical interaction between me and the young woman,” Sullivan wrote. “I was in the restaurant and spoke to the police, and I left the restaurant without any further police action.”
In his statement, Sullivan apologized to the woman.
“I was then, and am now, ashamed and deeply sorry that my words caused pain and hardship to her.”
Sullivan said the allegations were brought to his attention after being posted on social media, and he had not been advised of any formal complaint sent to the archdiocese. A formal complaint, officials said, was filed with the archdiocese after his statement. Sullivan also said he reported the video to the archdiocese.
“I pray that my accuser accepts my sincere apology and that it provides her with healing,” he concluded. “I am also praying that the impact of this matter does not bring unnecessary strife to our faith community.”
An email seeking comment from Sullivan was not returned.
Sullivan has been pastor at Christ the King for about six years.
According to the Christ the King Church website, Sullivan grew up in the parish of Queen of the Universe Church at 71st Street and Hamlin Avenue.
Cupich said the Rev. Jim Mezydlo, pastor of St. Walter Church in Morgan Park and a dean in the vicariate overseeing Christ the King Church, will be temporary administrator at Christ the King.
Cupich said that, as required by archdiocese child-protection services, the allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney. The woman making the accusations has been offered the services of the archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Ministry, he said, and the archdiocese has begun its investigation.
A spokesperson for the archdiocese confirmed that Sullivan informed archdiocese officials of the allegations after he became aware of the social media post.
Sullivan was ordained a priest in May 1992 and has no previous accusations of improper behavior.
According to the archdiocese, Sullivan is also the administrator of the parish of St. Cajetan Church in Morgan Park and the director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Cemeteries. He has also served at St. Christina Church in Mt. Greenwood and St. Celestine Church in Elmwood Park.