Cardinal Joseph Bernardin said in a posthumously published memoir that “certain critics of mine” - namely a fellow priest - helped instigate the false allegations of sexual abuse brought against him in 1993.
In “The Gift of Peace, Personal Reflections,” Bernardin writes that he had suspected early on that his accuser, Steven Cook, might have been “a pawn in this terrible game.” But Bernardin says he “could not imagine who would resort to these tactics to harm me.”
Cook eventually recanted and reconciled with Bernardin at a meeting in 1994. There, Cook confirmed Bernardin’s suspicions.
“It became clear to me that certain critics of mine had played a role in urging Steven Cook” to sue me, Bernardin writes.
During that meeting, Cook related that as a young seminarian he had been molested by a priest. Later, a lawyer put him in touch with a priest in another state to advise him spiritually.
“Although Steven was pursuing a case only against his seminary teacher, his priest adviser began mentioning me, Cardinal Bernardin, suggesting that, if I were included in the case, Steven would surely get back what he wanted from the church,” Bernardin writes. “This ‘spiritual guide’ pushed my name, urging Steven to name me along with the other priest in the legal action.”
Cook, who died of AIDS in 1995, reached a settlement with the seminary teacher.
Bernardin did not identify the priest except to say he was the same one who said on a Chicago radio talk show that he believed the cardinal was guilty. Spokesman Bob Quakenbush of the Chicago Archdiocese said Wednesday it was not releasing the priest’s name since the cardinal had not done so.
Bernardin died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 14.