Priest removed from Des Plaines church for ‘inappropriate relationship' with a man

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DES PLAINES (FOX 32 News) -- A priest has been removed from a northwest suburban church because of his “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.”

Reverend Marco Mercado worked at the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines and was removed from the post on Thursday.

Parishioners are certainly stunned to learn the reason why he was removed and still don't believe it.

Every December thousands of pilgrims make their way to the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines for feast day.  Many have been greeted by Father Marco Mercado in past years but it's the regular parishioners that don't believe the allegations against him.

“I’m sad, but I hope he comes back I like him and I never hear bad things about him so we all the time pray for him,” said Adrin Marin.

The Archdiocese of Chicago says, in a statement, Reverend Marco Mercado, rector of the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe has been removed from ministry because of an "inappropriate relationship with an adult man.”

Marco Marin works at the shrine and says his boss, Father Mercado is a good man.

“I’m just speechless. There's really nothing to say. I know who he is, everybody here knows who he is. We know what's true and what’s not. God knows what's true and what's not and that's what matters,” said Marco Marin.

The Archdiocese says they are committed to ensuring those serving the parishioners are fit for ministry and effective immediately Father Mercado will no longer reside at the shrine.

Joe Murray is the executive director of the Rainbow Sash Movement, a group that advocates for the rights of gay Catholics.  He says the focus should not be whether or not Father Mercado was with another man, but that he may have broken the vow of celibacy.

“How this priest thought he could be playing around with the vow of celibacy speaks tremendously to the hypocrisy in the church,” said Murray. “If you take the vow, you live the vow and if you can't live the vow you don't be a priest.”

Murray hopes Archbishop Blase Cupich uses this situation to address homophobia in the church and have a real conversation with the parishioners.

“The church promotes this concept that priests are on a higher level or something like bishops and when we find out that they are all too human, then shame on us,” said Murray.

Reverend Marco Mercado did release a statement this weekend.

He writes in part, "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 the 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."

He goes on to say he has cooperated with the Archdiocese of Chicago throughout this process.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this story