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  Hopkins Priest Resigns Amid Abuse Allegations
The Alleged Abuse Occurred in the '70s in New Jersey; There Are No Known Claims Here

By Randy Furst
Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN]
May 22, 2002

A priest resigned from a Catholic Church in Hopkins on Friday, two weeks after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was notified by Catholic authorities in Newark, N.J., that he had been accused of sexual abuse.

The Newark and Twin Cities archdioceses identified him as Robert Zasacki, who came to Minnesota in 1980 after working as a priest in New Jersey.

The Twin Cities archdiocese said the accuser is a man who provided "limited information" and alleged that Zasacki had abused him in the 1970s. The abuse was alleged to have taken place in New Jersey, where Zasacki was a priest for 13 years.

In a letter announcing his resignation, he said he had no recollection of abuse, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Twin Cities archdiocese. The letter was read to parishioners attending masses on Saturday and Sunday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hopkins.

"Father Zasacki has served in several parishes in the Twin Cities area, and no complaints of misconduct have come forth from his time of service here," the Twin Cities archdiocese said.

Zasacki joined the St. Joseph parish ministry in November, said Nicole Selleck, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Archbishop Harry Flynn has said no priests accused of sexual abuse are working with parishes in the archdiocese.

Three priests in the archdiocese are under restrictions because of past sexual abuse allegations, Selleck has said. None works with the general public, she said. Two work in the chancery (the archdiocesan office) and a third is a chaplain with an order of nuns in a priory in Bloomington.

The Newark Archdiocese received an allegation about two weeks ago that Zasacki had sexually abused someone, said spokesman Jim Goodness.

After the allegation was received, the Twin Cities archdiocese was immediately notified, Goodness said. The matter also was referred to the Newark Archdiocese's response team, which is a board composed predominantly of lay people that investigates allegations in such situations, he said.

Zasacki was ordained in Newark in 1967 and had several assignments in New Jersey, Goodness said.

He came to the Twin Cities area in 1980 to be treated for alcoholism and remained here, eventually transferring to the archdiocese here, according to its statement.

"At the time of that transfer, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis learned only about Father Zasacki's history of alcoholism," the statement said. "No allegations of sexual misconduct were reported."

Selleck said Zasacki came to St. Joseph's church from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale. Both churches referred all questions to the archdiocese.

Previously, Zasacki worked at Catholic churches in Forest Lake, Delano, Lindstrom and Circle Pines and at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Selleck said.

Kathleen Lynch, parish secretary at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Forest Lake, said Zasacki was the pastor there from 1987 to 1989.

"He was a strong person, and he straightened us out financially," she said. "He was a good pastor." She said no accusations of abuse were made against him during his tenure there.

The Twin Cities archdiocese said no more details about the abuse complaint were available, and the Newark Archdiocese said it couldn't elaborate on the accusations because of confidentiality concerns.

Zasacki could not be reached for comment.

 
 

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