New information has cleared a former pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Schaumburg of allegations he sexually abused a young parishioner, leading to his reinstatement as a priest in good standing, the Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed Wednesday.
An independent review board on July 24 removed the Rev. Joseph Wilk from a list of clergy with a substantiated allegations of abuse against them. Wilk had been placed on the list Feb. 5.
"It was the most horrible thing to go through," Wilk said Wednesday. "I was a good priest. I still am a good priest. I'm a priest in good standing. Now I'm living a very holy life and reading spiritual books."
Wilk is not assigned to any ministry currently. Instead, he is looking after his ailing parents in Palos Park.
An archdiocese official said the decision to remove Wilk from the list came after new information about his case came to light.
"This is a very unusual situation, but there was significant information available," said Jan Slattery, director of the archdiocese's Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. She declined to comment on the nature of the new information.
Wilk's removal from the list was not publicized by the archdiocese.
Susan Burritt, the archdiocese's director of media relations, said the move is so unusual that the organization had no procedures in place for announcing it. She said Wilk's case will be an example upon which to build a policy.
The original action against Wilk stemmed from a lawsuit filed in May 2013 by an adult man who said the former parish priest sexually abused him, first in 1995, when the accuser was 10 years old, and later from his freshman year of high school until he was 19 years old.
On Wednesday, Wilk said he's grateful to have made it through this painful chapter of his life, which he thought had permanently ruined it.
He said he never abandoned the Christian principle of forgiveness.
"Many people have different motivations in their life, and I don't judge them," he said. "I pray for the people who hurt me every day of my life."
Though a "vocational crisis" in 2010 almost led him to resign from the priesthood, he'd decided to stay in the ministry before the accusations surfaced. Wilk said he is grateful for the continued support of those he knew as pastor of St. Matthew Church from 1994 until 2006.
"I've never loved a community as much as I loved them," Wilk said. "I made mistakes, and I'm sorry for those. So many have supported me and remained in contact with me and called the Archdiocese."
Patrick V. Bradley, the attorney who had represented Wilk's accuser, is no longer practicing law in Illinois. His former firm -- McAndrews, Held & Malloy in Chicago -- could not comment Wednesday on the status of the accuser's lawsuit or whether the firm still represents him. According to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, Bradley is listed as voluntarily inactive and there have been no disciplinary actions filed against him.
Slattery said that to the best of her knowledge Bradley had nothing to do with the additional information that came to attention of the independent review board that examines misconduct allegations against priests.