Cinnaminson Suspends Ex-Priest
He Had Been Teaching Fifth Grade. Reports Said He Impregnated a Teenage Girl in Connecticut in 1989
By Will Van Sant
April 13, 2002
A fifth-grade teacher at Eleanor Rush Elementary School in Cinnaminson has been suspended after revelations that he impregnated a teenage girl in 1989 while a priest in Connecticut.
According to newspaper reports published yesterday, Joseph Michael DeShan began a relationship with a teenage girl who worked in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport during the tenure of Bishop Edward M. Egan.
Egan is now a cardinal and head of the Archdiocese of New York. DeShan left the priesthood in 1994.
Now a social studies and science teacher, DeShan has been at Eleanor Rush since 1997, said Salvatore J. Illuzi, superintendent of the Cinnaminson School District.
Illuzi said that DeShan's resume described his position with the Bridgeport diocese as "pastoral assistant/counselor."
Illuzi said DeShan called in sick and did not report to work yesterday. After learning of the allegations against his teacher, reported by the Connecticut Post and the Hartford Courant, Illuzi said he decided to suspend DeShan with pay pending an investigation.
"I want to talk to the man and get his side," Illuzi said. That has proved difficult so far. None of the calls Illuzi has made to DeShan had been returned as of late yesterday, the superintendent said.
DeShan could not be reached for comment.
Criminal background checks were conducted DeShan at the time of his hiring, Illuzi said, and they came up clean. During his years with the district, the superintendent said, no one had made any accusations of impropriety against the teacher.
"He is a warm and caring individual," Illuzi said. "And very respected by his students and other teachers."
Now 28, the woman DeShan impregnated lives in Bridgeport and is raising her daughter, the papers reported.
"I was young and naive and had very low self-esteem and he was this priest who could do no wrong," the mother told the Connecticut Post.
There was a dispute yesterday about when Bridgeport officials learned about DeShan's actions.
Yesterday, the newspapers reported that DeShan told church officials about the girl's pregnancy in 1989 and requested a leave of absence. The papers said DeShan voluntarily left the priesthood in 1994.
But in a joint statement issued later Friday by the Bridgeport and New York dioceses, church officials said the Bridgeport diocese did not know DeShan had fathered a child until he petitioned for laicization - lay status - in 1994.
Moreover, the church officials said DeShan told the Bridgeport diocese only that he had a relationship with a woman and had not disclosed that the woman was a minor.
The mother told the Post that DeShan sends her a monthly support check of $348 but has no other contact with her or the child.
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