Ex-Worker: Affair Was Well-Known
April 14, 2002
It was common knowledge at the rectory of the St. Augustine Cathedral that a priest had gotten a teen-ager who worked there pregnant, another former worker told the Connecticut Post.
The worker also said she overheard then-Bishop Edward M. Egan, now a cardinal and the archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, discussing what to do about the matter in late summer or early fall of 1989. Church officials said Friday the diocese did not know about the baby until 1994.
Bridgeport diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer called the ex-worker's account "a total fabrication." He said Saturday that he did not know who the former employee was. "I have no way to verify her employment, whether she would have reason to be in the rectory, or to judge her veracity," he said.
The Courant and the Post reported Friday that a priest, Joseph Michael DeShan, began a relationship with the girl in 1988, when she was under the age of 16 -- the age of consent under Connecticut law.
The girl got pregnant in 1989 shortly after her 16th birthday. She stopped working at the rectory after telling DeShan about the pregnancy; she claims she was fired, which the church denies.
McAleer told The Courant and The Post Thursday that DeShan told church officials about the relationship in 1989 and requested leave. But McAleer told the newspapers Friday that the church was unaware of the relationship until DeShan sought laicization, the process of leaving the priesthood, some five years later.
He also told The Courant Thursday that church officials were aware of the identity of the woman, a church worker, and had been told when the relationship began -- but he said records do not indicate she was a minor. On Friday, even as the church acknowledged that DeShan's psychologist believed the woman might have been as young as 16, he disputed that he had said records contained the woman's name.
The former cathedral employee, whom the Post did not identify, said she replaced the pregnant girl at the rectory in 1989. She said she overheard Egan telling other priests later that year that DeShan was leaving, and instructed the priests how to handle the situation.
The employee said she was one of a number of teen-age girls hired to work as receptionists and to serve priests meals.
"I remember coming in and Monsignor Scheyd said Father DeShan is no longer with us. If anyone asks, we are just to say that he left for personal reasons," she said.
The employee said she was serving dinner one night when she heard Egan discussing the relationship.
She told the newspaper she is "absolutely sure," based on her recollection of the conversation, that Egan knew DeShan was having an affair with the girl.
"It's not true," New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said Saturday. He said the cardinal did not know about the affair until 1994.
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