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  Priest Faces New Charges
Suspended Cleric Pleaded Guilty in 1998 in Other Abuse Cases

By Noah Haglund
The Post and Courier [South Carolina]
January 24, 2006

http://www.charleston.net/stories/?newsID=66965§ion=localnews

A suspended Catholic priest was charged Monday with molesting a boy more than three decades ago at a Sullivan's Island church while the boy was 12 and 13 years old, authorities said.

Sullivan's Island police began investigating the Rev. Eugene Luke Condon in September, after a man told them the priest abused him as a child during the summers of 1972 and 1973, Chief Danny Howard said.

Warrants accuse Condon, now 76, of sharing a beer with the boy and molesting him at the Stella Maris Catholic Church at 1204 Middle St. in 1972, and then molesting him again after a church service in 1973.

Condon turned himself over to authorities Monday morning. He left jail after posting $55,000 bail on two charges of committing a lewd act on a minor and one charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, warrants state.

The abuse allegations are not the first brought against the priest. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to other decades-old abuse cases. He received 5 years' probation, and a judge barred him from personal contact with any male younger than 18 without parental consent and supervision.

During that investigation, authorities found a trunk containing about 150 photographs of naked adolescent boys taken in the rectory of Stella Maris, prosecutors have said. The photographs showed the boys from the shoulders down.

South Carolina, unlike some other states, does not have a statute of limitations for crimes such as those Condon is facing. Defense attorney Andy Savage questioned why the allegations were coming to light now, nearly 10 years after previous allegations of abuse arose.

With the passage of so much time, Savage said, "witnesses are no longer available, memories fade and it's difficult to reconstruct incidents that took place so long ago. That's generally why they have statutes of limitation, and there's a good reason for it."

Savage also questioned the role any financial payout might be playing. In South Carolina and around the nation, the church has paid millions to settle abuse cases.

"Money is a motivator, there's no doubt about that," Savage said. "Whether it's a motivator in this case, I don't know. ... That remains to be seen after we investigate it."

Condon is a registered sex offender. Savage said his client is retired and in failing health. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston said he has been suspended since 1996 and prohibited from functioning or dressing as a priest.

The current charges stem from allegations that the diocese got last summer, according to a statement. The diocese says it followed its sexual misconduct policy and contacted the solicitor's office immediately. The diocese also offered to obtain counseling for the victim, the statement reads.

In 1996, Condon was granted early retirement from St. John's Catholic Church in North Charleston, a post he had held since 1991. His career spanned four decades and involved work at Stella Maris from 1971 to 1977 and two years as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street.

He served as pastor of St. Peter in Beaufort and Holy Cross on St. Helena Island (1979-85) and of Sacred Heart on King Street (1985-91).

Lawyers and counselors who have worked with victims think that dozens of children were abused during the past four decades in the Diocese of Charleston, which covers the entire state of South Carolina.

 
 

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