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  Priest in Sex Case Must Have Chaperone

By Mary Jo Layton
The Record [New Jersey]
May 14, 1994

A Superior Court judge sentenced a Franciscan priest to five years' probation Friday and ordered him to be chaperoned whenever he drives a car to prevent the priest from masturbating and exposing himself in public.

Citing psychiatric reports, Judge George Parsons said the Rev. Peter Walsh's compulsive sexual disorder was caused by "extreme tension with no available outlet."

The Roman Catholic priest, who says he prays for God's forgiveness, was sentenced for masturbating in front of five Lyndhurst boys last summer.

"I don't know if there are words strong enough to express the pain and scandal I've caused," Walsh said at a brief hearing in Hackensack."I pray to God that someday I can feel that forgiveness."

Walsh, who was a pastor of an upstate New York church, was visiting his mother in Lyndhurst when the incident occurred in August. Authorities charged that on two separate days, he drove to a playground and parked his car in full view of the boys, then masturbated in his vehicle.

Assistant Prosecutor Ike Gavzy, who said the priest was among "the most remorseful" defendants investigators had ever seen, accepted that the priest was "in the throes" of his disorder when the crimes were committed.

"He was in the throes of that disorder when he committed this offense. The remorse spews out of the defendant," Gavzy said.

Walsh, who pleaded guilty in March to five counts of child endangerment, has been undergoing psychological counseling since the incidents.

The priest was ordered to have a chaperone whenever he drives because the court believed he is most likely to engage in such behavior when he has access to a car.

In addition to the chaperone, conditions of probation include having no contact with juveniles or the victims. Walsh also must pay for psychiatric counseling for the victims as needed. One of the boys is in counseling, Gavzy said.

Walsh, a priest since 1982, was reassigned to the Franciscan order's Manhattan office after his arrest and is living in a monastery there.

The first incident occurred when Walsh parked his car in front of the Washington School and exposed himself to a group of four boys, ages 7, 9, 10, and 11, authorities said.

There was no conversation between the priest and the boys, but Walsh positioned his car in a way that he could not be avoided, authorities said at the time of his arrest.

The next day, Walsh parked at Stuyvesant and Post avenues and tapped on the car window to get the attention of a 13-year-old boy. He then exposed himself to the boy.

"Peter is very remorseful," his attorney Mark L. Groothuis advised the judge. "He deeply regrets the circumstances that brought him to you. . . . He has dedicated his life to helping people, not hurting them."

Parsons ordered that Walsh be permitted to perform "limited" priestly duties. But Groothuis said the priest is concentrating on his therapy.

"He's doing everything possible to address the situation. We'll worry about the other things later," Groothuis said.

 
 

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