Archbishop Blase Cupich has removed a popular suburban priest from the ministry after the Archdiocese discovered the priest had an "inappropriate relationship" with an adult man.
The Archdiocese removed Father Marco Mercado, who was the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, on Thursday. The Rev. Adan Sandoval Duron was appointed as the interim administrator.
"On October 1, 2015, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich removed Rev. Marco A. Mercado, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines from ministry because of Fr. Mercado's inappropriate relationship with an adult man," a statement from the Archdiocese reads. "Archbishop Cupich has withdrawn Fr. Mercado's faculties, his authority to minister ... Fr. Mercado will reside away from the Shrine, effective immediately.
"The Archdiocese is committed to ensuring those serving our parishioners are fit for ministry. Archbishop Cupich knows this news will be difficult to hear and he offers his assurance of prayers and solidarity with the community at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe."
Mercado recently traveled to Washington, D.C., as Congressman Luis Gutierrez's guest for Pope Francis' speech to Congress. He was ordained in 1998, and over the years he became a respected member of the Catholic community in the Chicago area.
In a statement released Saturday, Mercado said he was not "perfect," but he insisted he always remained devoted to the church.
"At all times I have cooperated with the Archdiocese of Chicago and I will continue to safeguard the welfare of the Sanctuary of my office," Mercado said in the statement. "As a human being I am not perfect, but as a priest my priority has always been the work of the Gospel and the struggle for immigrants and the most vulnerable. I pray that this issue is resolved soon, and I ask for your prayers, at the same time that I apologize if this scandal has caused any hardship to the faithful. I pray that Santa Maria de Guadalupe keep us under her mantle."
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) also released a statement following Mercado's dismissal, calling the priest's relationship an abuse of power.
"It isn't merely 'inappropriate.' It is an abuse of his authority," the statement reads. "The age of the victim does not take away the betrayal and harm. Archbishop Cupich should aggressively reach out to seek other potential victims and encourage anyone with information to come forward whether they experienced, witnessed or suspected wrongdoing."