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  St. Louis Priest Resigns after New Accusation

By Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
March 28, 2002

For the last three weeks, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis stood by its decision to keep the Rev. LeRoy A. Valentine working in a parish and adjoining parochial school despite public accusations that he abused three young brothers in their house 20 years ago.

"After in-depth investigation, it was decided the allegations were unsubstantiated," Terry Edelmann, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said earlier this month. "The case is closed."

But yesterday, Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis announced that Father Valentine had resigned as associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle after the archdiocese told him it had received another accusation against him.

The archbishop also announced that a second priest, the Rev. Gary P. Wolken at Our Lady of Sorrows, had been placed on leave while an abuse accusation against him was investigated. The archdiocese said it had forwarded that case to the Missouri Division of Family Services.

Father Valentine, in a letter to his parish released yesterday, wrote, "I continue to maintain my innocence, but at this time I have come to the decision that it is in the best interest of our parish family, of the archdiocese, and for my own personal well-being that I end my service at St. Thomas."

The resignation was a victory of sorts for Katie Chrun, the mother of the three boys.

"This is the happiest Easter I've had in 20 years," Ms. Chrun said in a telephone interview.

She says that one afternoon in 1982, her sons, John, Frank and Tony Scorfina, then ages 10, 11 and 12, phoned her at work to say that Father Valentine was at their house, something was wrong and she should hurry home. She says that that same day, she reported to the church that Father Valentine had molested her sons but that church officials stonewalled her.

The Scorfina brothers sued the church in 1995, and the archdiocese paid them each $20,000 in a confidential settlement that required them to stay silent. It was only when they learned in February that Father Valentine was still working in a parish that they broke the confidentiality agreement and described the abuse to a reporter for The New York Times.

John Scorfina said that after the story became public he received death threats and a lot of scrutiny. "It's all worth it now," he said.

It is unclear who the new accuser is. Another St. Louis native called The Times yesterday to say that he had phoned the archdiocese last week after reading newspaper accounts of the Scorfinas' story. This man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, asserted that Father Valentine molested him three times during confession in a small room in the rear of another church in 1972, when he was 8.

The man said he left a message at the archdiocese last week, but never spoke to officials there because they took several days to call him back. In the interim, he said he decided to contact a lawyer.

 
 

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