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  Local Priest Resigns, Faces Investigation

By Eric Frazier
Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
June 21, 1996

STA local priest facing a criminal investigation into possible sexual misconduct has resigned his post, Roman Catholic officials said Thursday.

The Rev. Eugene L. Condon, pastor of North Charleston's St. John's Catholic Church, resigned from the post he has held nearly five years. He asked for and was granted early retirement.

The retirement went into effect on Tuesday - the same day the 9th Circuit solicitor's office told the diocese it was investigating allegations that Condon had engaged in sexual improprieties with a minor. The Most Rev. David Thompson, bishop of Charleston, said he was sorry to learn of the investigation and pledged the diocese's full cooperation.

"I want to assure the person who has accused Father Condon of my personal and pastoral concern and offer pastoral care," Thompson said in a prepared statement.

"I also offer Father Condon and the people of St. John's parish my prayers and pastoral concern at this difficult time."

Solicitor David Schwacke said his office began investigating about three weeks ago after receiving files on the case from the FBI.

He said the allegations stretch back at least to the mid-1970s. His office has interviewed one accuser and identified another possible victim who lives outside the 9th Circuit, which includes Charleston and Berkeley counties. Schwacke said he plans to forward the information to the appropriate solicitor.

He suggested charges could be filed early next month. Federal authorities said they couldn't confirm or deny an investigation.

Someone lodged a sexual misconduct complaint against Condon in the early 1980s, but the accuser did not want the church to confront the priest about it, said Mary Jeffcoat, spokeswoman for the diocese.

Condon, 66, has been a priest for 40 years. He was pastor at Stella Maris on Sullivan's Island from 1971 to 1977. Subsequently, he served two years as associate pastor at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street. Other posts held include: pastor of St. Peter in Beaufort and Holy Cross on St. Helena Island, 1979-1985; and pastor of Sacred Heart on King Street, 1985-1991.

Last year, a judge sentenced the Rev. Justin Goodwin to 10 years in prison, suspended upon service of five years probation. The 90-year-old priest had been charged with molesting four children while serving at Blessed Sacrament on Savannah Highway in the late 1970s.

In 1994, Monsignor Frederick J. Hopwood admitted that he repeatedly molested an altar boy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in 1970 and 1971. He received three years' probation and 250 hours of community service as part of a plea bargain.ATJA

 
 

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