Egan Resources – April 9–13, 2002
By Gail Gibson and John Rivera
Tucked away on a 43-acre suburban campus in Silver Spring, the St. Luke Institute boasts garden courtyards, tennis and handball courts and, by its own account, extraordinary success over the past two decades in treating the dark and complex problem of clergy sexual abuse.
But as the Roman Catholic Church struggles with the latest scandal involving the sexual abuse of minors, the efforts of the church-run psychiatric center and its self-reported success rate are under new scrutiny, with critics saying the facility has been too willing to let potentially dangerous priests return to the ministry in order to please church officials heavily invested in the priests' training and recovery.
"These centers, particularly one like St. Luke, do a big, big business with the church," said Gary R. Schoener, a Minneapolis psychologist who has closely studied the Maryland center and similar facilities. "It's the same problem consultants have - when you have one big customer, the tendency is to treat them nicely and have things go the way they want it to go."
Current and past officials with St. Luke dispute that suggestion. They say that far from being part of the problem in the roiling Catholic sexual abuse scandal, the center - with its blend of progressive art and drama therapy, drug treatment and exhaustive group and 12-step counseling sessions - is part of the solution.
An internal study of the more than 450 priests who underwent the center's six-month treatment program between 1985 and 1995 showed only three of the men relapsed - a conclusion based on reports from the men themselves, their church supervisors or law enforcement officials.
Center officials say few of the priests they treat are ever returned to their old duties or allowed to work again with young people.
"I never had pressure from any bishop to send a priest back and, in many cases, we had people who we thought were able to go back, and we had a hard time convincing any bishops to take them," said the Rev. Canice Connors, a past president of St. Luke.
The current church crisis, however, has focused new attention on St. Luke's role in advising the church on whether known sexual offenders should be returned to ministry. In several high-profile cases, church officials knew about sexual abuse allegations - and had priests evaluated or treated at St. Luke - but still shuttled them from parish to parish.
In Boston, former priest John J. Geoghan, accused of molesting more than
130 people, underwent weeklong evaluations at St. Luke in 1989 and 1995,
according to court records. He was treated for three months at the Institute
of Living in Hartford, Conn., a secular facility that, like St. Luke,
has been widely respected for treating clergy accused of sexual abuse.
A priest from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Andrew Millar, was sent to St. Luke in 1999 after he was accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old altar boy eight years earlier. Millar retired after completing treatment and was allowed to celebrate Mass at a parish where nobody was informed of the charges against him. In May 2000, he was arrested and charged with sodomizing a learning-disabled teen-age boy in a park bathroom.
As those and other cases unfolded, they exposed rare fault lines between the church and the psychiatric facilities it has relied on for years.
The staff at the Institute of Living, reacting to a suggestion from New York Cardinal Edward Egan that the church relied on faulty psychiatric evaluations in reassigning priests accused of abuse, said recently that church leaders gave them limited background information on troubled priests and then ignored their treatment advice.
The head of the St. Luke Institute, in an interview last week, drew a sharp distinction between the center's role and the church's in placing priests who are known sexual offenders. The Rev. Stephen J. Rossetti said his facility can only make a recommendation about a priest's future - it is up to the church to decide what happens after that.
But Rossetti, who said he could not talk about Geoghan or other cases, signaled that St. Luke continues its close, cordial relationship with the church.
"There's the impression that people are being given, that [priests accused of sexual abuse] are all going back" to their parishes, he said. "That's just not been my impression.
"What I've been seeing is the bishops take it very, very seriously. They send them to treatment and, the majority of times, they're removed from ministry completely."
St. Luke's treatment regimen has been praised for years as one of the country's most rigorous programs for child abusers.
"St. Luke's has, in my estimation, an excellent staff, and I think their program was set on a very solid medical model," said A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychologist and former priest who was one of the first to study and write about the church's sex abuse problems.
In business since 1981
St. Luke opened in 1981 as a treatment center for priests with alcohol and drug addictions. Named for the patron saint of physicians, the facility was founded by the Rev. Michael Peterson, a Washington psychiatrist and Catholic convert who became a priest.
The center expanded its counseling mission in 1983 to include clergy accused of sexual abuse, partly as a response to the case of Gilbert Gauthe, a Louisiana priest who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing at least 35 youths.
Peterson and St. Luke gained attention in subsequent years for bluntly drawing new attention to the problem of clergy sexual abuse.
A 1985 report Peterson co-wrote for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that there is "no hope at this point in time for a cure." And, it noted, the "recidivism rate is so high with pedophilia ... that all controlled studies have shown that traditional outpatient psychiatric or psychological models alone do not work."
The church, particularly the Vatican, has not always looked favorably on St. Luke. This response appeared to be based at least partly on the fact that St. Luke's founder, Peterson, who was openly gay before becoming a priest, died of AIDS in 1987, one of the first such cases involving Catholic clergy to gain national attention.
This ambivalence apparently figured in the Vatican's opposition in 1993 to an American bishop's efforts to oust a suspected abuser from his diocese. The Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court, ruled against Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, appearing to side with a canon lawyer for the accused priest, Anthony Cipolla.
"St. Luke's Institute, a clinic founded by a priest who is openly homosexual and based on a mixed doctrine of Freudian pan-sexualism and behaviorism, is surely not a suitable institution apt to judge rightly about the beliefs and the lifestyle of a Catholic priest," said the brief, first published in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Vatican court reversed itself two years later and supported the decision to remove Cipolla.
At St. Luke, priests undergo a range of assessments and follow-up treatments, at a cost to the church of about $300 a day.
Rossetti, who would not allow a reporter to visit the Silver Spring facility, said sexual offenders make up only about a quarter of the center's clients - about 18 of the center's 70 beds.
Evaluations and tests
When priests arrive at St. Luke, their initial evaluations include a battery of psychological, personality and intelligence tests. They also typically undergo CAT scans of the brain and are attached to a device designed to measure arousal in men when they are shown pornographic photographs.
That device, called a penile plethysmograph, is one of the most controversial parts of St. Luke's approach, and some priests subjected to it call the experience humiliating.
Dr. Fred S. Berlin, founder of the Baltimore-based National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, said the arousal measurements, as well as sometimes confrontational counseling sessions, are important components of the program.
"The idea is not for these guys in treatment to be comfortable," said Berlin, who worked with St. Luke as it began its sexual offender program in the early 1980s. "St. Luke's is very much focused on what the primary objective should be - that the behavior is not acceptable."
If a patient is admitted to the full, six-month program, his treatment typically begins with a dose of the drug Depo-Provera to weaken the sex drive. In group and individual therapy sessions, priests undergo art and drama therapy to help them better express their feelings. They are instructed to keep a detailed sexual history diary.
In group therapy sessions, they are confronted by other priests who challenge the most common denials or protests - that the offenders' actions weren't really abusive, that the child involved didn't mind.
The goals of the program are straightforward: Priests are expected to acknowledge their sexual problems, accept responsibility for their actions and learn how to prevent relapses.
No one at St. Luke talks about a cure, and priests finish the program with the understanding that they will face long-term monitoring. Connors said priests typically report back every six months for five years.
Other psychologists say that is at least one factor allowing the center to claim a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent.
"They've got such a closely supervised program once they get out, so there's less opportunity to offend," said Thomas G. Plante, a California psychologist and editor of a 1999 academic study of priestly sexual abuse.
Schoener, however, questions whether the reports of relapses - which have never been subjected to an outside review - are complete. Sexual offenders in the general populace typically have higher repeat rates.
"To believe that whatever measure they are using is catching every victim is absurd," he said.
Schoener and others say that St. Luke suffers most from its close ties to the church. In reviewing St. Luke and two other facilities seven years ago at the request of the archbishop for St. Paul and Minneapolis, Schoener said the clinical reports by St. Luke's professional staff were solid. But he criticized the center for relying too heavily on the church for initial investigations and follow-up monitoring.
Sipe, the psychologist and sex abuse expert, said St. Luke has to overcome the cloistered "clergy culture" in which it operates. That is echoed by the Rev. James J. Gill, who said the institute offers less of a real-world treatment environment than some secular treatment facilities.
"If a bishop feels he has to send a man to a place where only priests and nuns and brothers are, a Catholic ghetto, they send him to the St. Luke Institute," said Gill, a psychologist and consultant at the Institute of Living.
Rossetti, St. Luke's president, counters that its religious affiliation can be beneficial. Priests at his facility aren't given any special respect or the benefit of the doubt because of their profession, he said.
What is missing, he said, is more aggressive secular involvement from criminal and child welfare investigators, who often decline to review allegations of priest sexual abuse because the claims typically are raised years after the abuse occurs.
"What professional, secular organization is going to do a criminal
investigation?" he said. "And they don't - the bishop ends up
becoming judge and jury and parole officer, and that is unfortunate."
By Eric Rich
While serving as bishop in Bridgeport, Edward M. Egan, now New York cardinal, failed to notify police about a sexual relationship between a 15-year-old member of a church youth group and a priest - a relationship considered statutory rape under Connecticut law.
The teenager, who is now 28, became pregnant with the priest's child in September 1989, two months after her 16th birthday, documents show, and today is struggling as a single mother in Bridgeport.
That same month, the Rev. Joseph DeShan requested a leave of absence from the church and revealed the relationship to diocese officials. Egan allowed him to leave the priesthood and begin a new life as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey - with no record of sexual misconduct.
Diocesan files make no mention of the girl's status as a minor, a spokesman said Thursday evening, but a cursory investigation would have revealed that she was legally underage when the relationship began. Records show that DeShan gave church officials the girl's name, said she worked at the rectory of St. Augustine Cathedral and explained that the relationship began in October 1988, said Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Bridgeport diocese.
"Obviously, the church today would not condone what is a criminal act and neither would society," McAleer said. "If it happened today, this would be reported to the authorities without question."
The Bridgeport and New York dioceses said in a joint statement today that the diocese did not know DeShan had fathered a child until he petitioned for laicization - departure of the priesthood - in 1994.
DeShan then said he had a "monogamous relationship with a woman," the dioceses said. The record includes speculation by DeShan's psychologist that the girl was 16, but that is the age of consent in Connecticut, the statement said.
DeShan never told Egan or the Bridgeport diocese that he had sex with a minor, nor did the girl or her family, the dioceses said.
In contrast to Egan's solicitous treatment of DeShan, the mother of the child says she experienced a very different reaction from the church two days after she told DeShan she was pregnant. On that day, she was called in to see Monsignor William Scheyd, a top aide to Egan, and was told that she was fired from her evening receptionist's job at the Bridgeport cathedral.
After that, no one from the diocese contacted her or offered assistance, and no law enforcement authorities ever inquired about her sexual relationship with a priest twice her age - a relationship that, by all accounts, began before she reached the legal age of consent.
Even as a growing scandal roils the Roman Catholic Church nationally, the incident is the first public example of sexual misconduct that occurred and was apparently concealed - and certainly not explored even minimally - while Egan was bishop. Clergy in Connecticut are required by law to report cases of suspected sexual abuse, including statutory rape, a felony.
Attempts to reach a spokesman for Egan in New York - where he became archbishop in 2000 and was elevated last year to cardinal - were unsuccessful Thursday.
The woman, who now lives in a modest apartment on the east side of Bridgeport, never filed a lawsuit against the church and sought child support from DeShan only after she applied for state assistance. She has never discussed the matter publicly, confiding only in her family and close friends, and says she does not plan any legal action.
After she was contacted by The Courant, she agreed to tell her story on condition of anonymity. She said she has come to believe that the attention DeShan lavished on her a decade ago, which she once found so flattering, amounted to mistreatment by an adult who should have known better.
"I'm angry," said the woman, who has worked for several years at a social service agency for abused women and children. "I feel anger because I got pregnant, because I haven't done anything in life that I wanted to do."
She also said she agreed to come forward because she believes the church concealed DeShan's misconduct - and compounded the wrong by firing her.
"People shouldn't be naïve," she said. "The church hides things, too."
After DeShan was placed on leave of absence, he and the woman lived together in a cabin in Vermont and, later, at his parents' home in a New Jersey suburb. The woman, who is Hispanic and who felt unwelcome in that town, returned to Bridgeport.
DeShan has since married another woman, a doctor. They and their two children live in a Philadelphia suburb. He teaches fifth grade at a public elementary school in Cinnaminson, a small town in New Jersey.
Although he was on a leave of absence from the diocese for more than a decade, the Vatican did not grant his request to formally leave the priesthood until within the past two years.
In a brief interview earlier this week in a parking lot outside the school, DeShan did not dispute the details of the relationship, but declined to say whether Egan knew of the girl's age.
"It was a consensual relationship that didn't work out," said DeShan, who pays child support to this day. "I have no ax to grind with the church."
Scheyd, now the pastor at a church in Norwalk, acknowledged in a brief interview Thursday that he knew the teenager worked at the rectory. He said he could not recall the circumstances of her departure, and does not remember whether he knew she was pregnant at the time.
In the statement today, the dioceses said Scheyd was not aware of the girl's relationship with DeShan and did not ask her to stop working at the rectory, even though he was dissatisfied with her work.
Her job at the rectory put her in close quarters with Scheyd, whom Egan has described as his "most trusted adviser" while serving in Bridgeport. It was in that rectory, the woman said, that she and DeShan first met - and, later, had sex on several occasions.
The woman grew up in Bridgeport, the middle of three siblings. Her father was a factory worker; her mother cared for the children and later worked in retail.
She first met DeShan in the late 1980s, when she enrolled at Bridgeport's Warren Harding High School and joined a youth group and church softball team at St. Augustine Cathedral.
She liked the church. She admired the nuns' selflessness and for a time believed she wanted to become one.
She admired DeShan, too. He was handsome, flattering and easier to relate to than the other priests. He drove her home after youth group sessions, and they soon began spending time together on his days off. As the relationship became sexual, she says, they spent their time far from Bridgeport: There were afternoons hiking at Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, and nights at a Chester inn.
DeShan, then 30, told her the relationship was to remain their secret.
Despite their efforts to conceal it, she says, there were signs that others might have recognized: A nun caught her once, in the kitchen, sneaking down a back stairway from DeShan's living quarters in the rectory. Another time, she says, a hastily discarded condom was discovered on the floor near Scheyd's office, when an unexpected visitor interrupted their liaison.
In addition, she said, Scheyd, who lived in the rectory with DeShan, appeared to grow increasingly suspicious as DeShan took longer and longer to drive her home after youth group meetings.
"He never straight-out said anything," she said of Scheyd, who was the vicar general under Egan and under Egan's predecessor, Bishop Walter Curtis. "It was just a change in the way he'd look at me, and in his tone of voice. He was cold."
"The way he looked at me, I felt like I was being blamed," she said.
When he fired her shortly after she revealed the pregnancy to DeShan, Scheyd told her someone more experienced would fill the job, she said. The woman believes today, as she did then, that she was terminated because of the pregnancy.
But her understanding of how wrong the relationship was only dawned years later when she surveyed the list of life goals unmet. She never became a police officer, never joined the military, never went to college.
"Around my birthdays I look back and think about those things," she said. "I didn't do anything I wanted to do."
She said she feels, at times, that her struggle today to support herself and her daughter is a sort of divine punishment for the relationship she had with DeShan.
"For a long time I blamed myself because I thought I should have known better, that I was old enough to have known better," she said. "I was a teenager. I was young and naïve. He was older. He knew better. He wasn't a child."
Wire information included.
By Noreen O’Donnell and David McKay Wilson
Croton-on-Hudson — The Rev. Kenneth Jesselli arrived at Holy Name of Mary Church two years ago, brought in to heal a church fractured over sexual misconduct allegations leveled at his predecessor. Now, with Jesselli removed over a past accusation of inappropriate behavior, furious churchgoers are demanding to know when officials knew he had a questionable past.
"How dare they?" said Anne Kennedy, a parishioner of the Roman Catholic church for 31 years whose three sons were altar servers.
And to that, the Archdiocese of New York was refusing to answer.
Its spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, would not say whether the archdiocese knew of the allegation against Jesselli before he was assigned to Holy Name of Mary. Nor would he say exactly what Jesselli had been accused of.
"I'm not going to be talking about individual priests," Zwilling said.
The lack of information left the parishioners at Holy Name of Mary Church struggling to respond to the latest blow to their church. A form letter faxed to the church from the archdiocese to be read aloud by a new priest at the Saturday evening service referred only to "inappropriate behavior from his past."
Jesselli's departure came as the archdiocese announced that six priests were removed from their posts because of complaints of sexual improprieties. The priests forced to leave their positions were not identified, and it was not known how many had served in parishes. Zwilling would say only that "there should have been something read in each of the parishes involved."
The clerics were relieved of their duties in concert with the archdiocese's decision to turn over to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office a list of priests accused of sexual abuse of minors, Zwilling said.
At Holy Name of Mary, Georgianna Grant's response was to withhold her donation Sunday morning. After learning about Jesselli's removal, she took her check from her offering envelope, crossed out the dollar amount and wrote in "zero." She deposited it in the offering plate to protest the archdiocese's decision to assign Jesselli to the parish in the first place.
"I hope they get the message loud and clear," said Grant, a member of the Croton-on-Hudson village Board of Trustees who has called Holy Name of Mary Church her spiritual home for 50 years. "We are angry. We feel betrayed, and most of all, we are so, so sad."
Like Grant, Kennedy said she would use money to express her anger.
"The only language they understand is money, so I will no longer contribute," Kennedy said.
"I think it's time for the clergy — the priests, the bishops and the cardinal — to practice what they preach," she said. "They should confess their sins, beg for forgiveness, make restitution and pray for God's mercy. This is the only parade that Cardinal Egan should be leading."
Bishop James McCarthy, the pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Shrub Oak and an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, said he would not be surprised to see a small percentage of Catholics withhold contributions. His more immediate concern, he said, is that some Catholics may leave the church entirely.
"A good number of parishioners are concerned," McCarthy said. "I'm worried about the people who are truly alienated — angry enough, bewildered enough and hurt enough to give up, to say their faith is shaken. We are supposed to be fishermen, going out after people. If we lose one person, it's too many."
A statement from the parish council and its chairman, David Tuttle, said that other parishioners were continuing to give generously and that weekly collections have been up. Tuttle said he was unaware of any inappropriate behavior by Jesselli during the two years that the priest had served at Holy Name of Mary and that the parish had the resilience to get through the uproar.
"We are wounded, but we are not defeated," the statement said.
Grant's 42-year-old son, Michael, owner of the Blue Pig Ice Cream Factory in Croton, said the news of Jesselli's dismissal had rocked a congregation still recovering from the departure of the previous pastor, the Rev. Gennaro Gentile. Gentile was allowed to stay on as pastor of Holy Name of Mary after at least four families complained to the archdiocese in the 1990s that he improperly touched boys. One of the families, the Nauheimers of Croton, recently settled a lawsuit against the archdiocese.
"It is brutal, and people are very torn," said Michael Grant, who grew up in the parish but no longer attends the church. "People should point their fingers at the archdiocese. They were covering this up."
Gentile left at the end of his term, in the summer of 2000, and now works at a church office in Poughkeepsie that deals with marriage annulments. Cardinal Edward M. Egan had been installed as archbishop of New York only weeks earlier, so it was unclear whether he had any role in choosing Jesselli to replace Gentile.
But Egan did have a say in Jesselli's replacement. The new priest, the Rev. Michael Keane, told The Associated Press that he had been appointed directly by the cardinal, moving from a Catholic high school in Poughkeepsie, where he had taught for the past seven years.
"As I read the letter to the congregation, you could hear some audible gasps," Keane said. "Some people put their hands to their mouths. You can imagine what was going through their heads."
One parishioner, Michael Gaffney, said he was dumbstruck about the way the announcement had been made — by a new priest, reading a faxed letter, with no answers for the parish.
"It seems they're still operating as though they're more concerned about secrecy," he said.
A bishop should have come to the church to talk to the people and to be available to minister to them afterward, he said. The manner in which the scandal was handled made it appear the archdiocese cared little about the parishioners, he said.
"This is an awful set of circumstances," he said. "What do we tell our children now?"
One young man who attends the church, Jeremy Davis, a 10th-grader at Croton Harmon High School, already knows how he is feeling. He said he was leery of opening up to a priest in the privacy of the confession booth.
"It seems weird because you'd think you could trust a priest," he said. "I'm afraid to do confession now."
By Blair Craddock
SLOATSBURG — The Archdiocese of New York's decision to remove a well-liked priest on unspecified charges said to be linked to the church's sex-abuse scandal has left some villagers hurt, puzzled and angry.
"I feel so bad about that priest," Ann Kessler, a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church, said yesterday. The pastor at her church, the Rev. John Gallant, received orders last week from the archdiocese to step down from his ministry.
"Why is he being bunched in with a bunch of child molesters?" Kessler said. "It really bothers me."
Gallant told parishioners Sunday he was removed because his name was among those forwarded last week by the archdiocese to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors sought the files as part of an investigation related to cases in which some priests in various states were accused of sexual abuse of children, and church officials failed to address the problem.
But Gallant told parishioners Sunday he was no child abuser. There was an allegation of impropriety in his past, he said, but it concerned a woman who was 18 years old at the time of the incident — a legal adult. He also said the allegations are from 22 years ago.
Neither the archdiocese nor prosecutors would disclose any information about what was contained in the report that led to his removal.
Dan O'Leary, a parishioner at St. Joan who serves as a lay minister, said yesterday that it was "horrible" to see Gallant's reputation stained by accusations whose details have so far been withheld by authorities.
"The fact he's been relieved of his duties is all anybody seems to know," O'Leary said. "And people read these things in the paper, and it's like he's already been tried and convicted.
"I don't think you can recover," O'Leary said. "No matter where he goes now, this shadow will hang over him. ... If there's nothing else (besides the alleged impropriety with the 18-year-old), to do this to anyone is horrible."
Gallant was a familiar figure in the neighborhood near St. Joan's, where residents said he would often walk with his small dog. It was not only Catholics yesterday who were saddened and puzzled by his removal.
"Men do make mistakes," said John Astor. "If you think you're free from sin, you should cast the first stone. It's not proven, so why is the man losing his position?"
To Astor, who said he was a non-Catholic, the shadow of suspicion cast on the priest seemed unjustifiable.
"In the '50s, with McCarthyism, they'd put a man's name down, and his life was ruined," Astor said. "It's like a witch hunt. That's how I feel. And how many men haven't at one time been stupid when they were young?"
Kessler said it's the child-abuse scandal itself that bothers her.
"These pedophiles should be put away," Kessler said. "And the ones who covered it up, their names should be in the paper. ... But what that man (Gallant) did is nothing like that."
"Everybody but God makes mistakes," she said. "I'm a Catholic, and I'll always be a Catholic. ... But I'm so angry."
By Noreen O’Donnell
A priest who has been dogged by decades-old sexual misconduct allegations has now been barred from officiating at a church in Chappaqua, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York confirmed yesterday.
The Rev. Francis Stinner had been saying weekend Mass at St. John and St. Mary Church for 2 1/2 years at the request of the pastor at the time.
"The (new) pastor was informed that Father Stinner should not be invited to say Mass at the parish," archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.
Also yesterday, five lawyers representing the archdiocese sat down with prosecutors from the region during a 90-minute meeting in the White Plains office of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro.
"Our concerns as prosecutors are that we receive full and immediate disclosure as quickly as possible," Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said at a news conference. "No additional hurdles (should) need to be overcome. We want the cases as quickly as possible. Period."
Bowing to pressure, the archdiocese released information last week about past allegations against Roman Catholic priests to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. It also removed six priests from their posts. Stinner was not among the six. Although he is still a priest, he has not had an archdiocesan assignment for several years, Zwilling said.
The archdiocese will not name the six priests, but three men with connections to the region are apparently among them. The departures of the Rev. Kenneth Jesselli of Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton-on-Hudson and the Rev. John Gallant of St. Joan of Arc in Sloatsburg were announced during the weekend in their churches. In addition, Jesselli's predecessor, the Rev. Gennaro Gentile, who had been working at the church's annulment office in Poughkeepsie, is no longer on the job.
No information has been made public about the accusations against Jesselli. Gallant told parishioners on Sunday that he had been accused of sexual impropriety with an 18-year-old woman 22 years ago. He said he had "never abused a minor boy or girl in my entire life."
Gentile, despite allegations brought against him by families in the parish, remained at Holy Name of Mary until the end of his term two years ago. This year, the priest settled a lawsuit with one of the families from Croton.
The allegations against Stinner surfaced in 1997 while he was at St. Joseph's Church in Bronxville. Three men accused him of fondling them in the 1960s and 1970s in Orange County. The archdiocese bought one of the alleged victims a $23,000 car and paid for his therapy and college education, but it denied that the money represented an admission of Stinner's guilt.
Stinner was removed from St. Joseph's immediately and has been without an assignment ever since.
In 1999, he was invited to assist at St. John and St. Mary by the parish's former pastor, Bishop Timothy McDonnell, a respected figure in the archdiocese who had held several high-profile jobs in the church administration. McDonnell left Chappaqua in January, shortly after he was ordained a bishop, to become co-vicar general, the highest administrative post in the archdiocese.
McDonnell could not be reached yesterday for comment.
When Stinner left St. Joseph's, many of the parishioners objected, saying no allegations had been made there. He had his defenders in Chappaqua yesterday as well.
Margaret Atkinson, a St. John and St. Mary parishioner, said she found Stinner to be a "fine priest" during his two years at the church, when he served Mass on Saturday and Sunday but was not involved in the Christian education of children.
"He was a fine man, and I have no knowledge of him doing anything,'' she said. "I would not like to see him condemned for the rest of his life. He appears to have paid his penalty, and there comes a time when someone has to be forgiven."
During the meeting in Pirro's office yesterday, Pirro asked why two incidents of alleged sexual misconduct included in the documents turned over to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau did not name the priests, a source familiar with what transpired said. Morgenthau later forwarded the cases to the district attorneys in each of the counties the archdiocese encompasses. The archdiocese later revealed the names of the two priests.
Zwilling said the district attorneys were told that if they desired any information not included in the files, the archdiocese would provide it.
"We made it abundantly clear to them that if they would like to request any information about any of the priests we presented in the files, they could ask and we would be willing to cooperate," he said.
Orange County District Attorney Francis Phillips — who during the 1990s prosecuted a since-defrocked priest, Edward Pipala, who admitted abusing dozens of victims in several parishes — said he told the church lawyers that the archdiocese's cooperation with law enforcement officials was long overdue.
"Had they done this eight years ago, we would have known about it and been in a better position than we are now, but we are progressing slowly," he said.
His counterpart in Rockland County, Michael Bongiorno, said some allegations sent to his office, even if true, could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired, but not all of it appeared criminal in nature.
"Some of it falls into the category of alleged inappropriate behavior by clerical standards or by an adult," Bongiorno said. "But that doesn't mean it is a crime."
New priests stand in front of Catholic congregations in Croton-on-Hudson and in Sloatsburg. Your priest has been replaced, they tell the people in the pews. The priests are reading from letters provided by the Archdiocese of New York.
They are form letters.
In Croton, the name of the Rev. Kenneth Jesselli fills in the blank for "Father Y"; in Sloatsburg, it is the name of the Rev. John Gallant.
The letters read in six parishes over the weekend referred vaguely to past allegations of inappropriate behavior. In Croton, angry parishioners were left to guess what that might mean. What kind of allegations? What does "past" mean? Was an accusation made during Jesselli's two years in Croton? Or when he was in Yonkers? In the Bronx?
And when did archdiocese officials first hear of them? There was no way to tell from the announcement, and the archdiocese refused to say any more. What was known was that the archdiocese had decided to give law-enforcement authorities allegations unearthed in a review of records going back 35 to 40 years — presumably including a report about Jesselli.
The members of the Croton parish had reason to be particularly upset — "betrayed," one parishioner said. Jesselli had replaced the Rev. Gennaro Gentile, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with children. A lawsuit accusing him was recently settled.
In Sloatsburg, Gallant filled in some blanks himself. After his replacement was announced, he faced parishioners and told them that he was accused 22 years ago of "an alleged incident with an 18-year-old girl." The accusation was indeed in the records the archdiocese turned over, he said.
What he said next was itself an astonishing commentary on what is happening within the church: "I have never abused a minor boy or girl in my entire life."
Parishioners, apparently, were meant to be relieved. And some were.
"Why is he being bunched in with a bunch of child molesters?" one parishioner asked.
It is notable — or it should be notable to Cardinal Edward Egan, head of the New York Archdiocese — that parishioners seem to be reeling now as much from the church's delayed, partial reaction as they are from being told that priests they have come to know and respect stand accused . . . of something, sometime.
Given the pattern of cover-ups and quietly settled lawsuits, should parishioners imagine that substantive allegations were made? Or were they frivolous? Were they ever seriously investigated by the church? Should they have been prosecuted?
There is no way of knowing. The archdiocese, even now, keeps new accusations to itself, bringing information to law enforcement after it has conducted its own investigation. The release of the "past" information may serve only to embroil and embarrass, to no end.
Unless the district attorneys studying the personnel files find something that can be turned into a criminal case, parishioners may never hear anything more about these cases or, probably, these priests whose departures they heard about from a form letter read by a stranger.
By Blair Craddock
SLOATSBURG — A candlelight vigil for an ousted priest drew more than 200 people yesterday to St. Joan of Arc Church.
"All we want the archdiocese to do is put our pastor back in our parish where he belongs," said lifelong parishioner Joseph Hann, 38, who attended with his wife, stepdaughter and 9-year-old stepson.
"This is his home," Hann said of the Rev. John Gallant, who stepped down as pastor last weekend on orders of the Archdiocese of New York.
A letter from church authorities, read to parishioners at weekend Masses by a new priest, said Gallant was ordered to step down because of an alleged impropriety in his past.
Although his removal came in the midst of a nationwide scandal involving Catholic authorities who covered up instances of child sex abuse by priests, Gallant told parishioners in farewell remarks after each weekend Mass that he never committed any child abuse. The shadow in his past concerns an incident 22 years ago involving an 18-year-old girl, he said, who was legally an adult.
The archdiocese has refused to discuss the nature of the allegation.
The parishioners, community members, and Protestant clergy who spoke last night in support of Gallant included Anglican Bishop George Langberg, who criticized Catholic church authorities for failing to differentiate between the grave evil of child abuse, on the one hand, and lesser sins of sexual impropriety on the other.
"We've been through this before," Langberg said, referring to scares about communism in the 1950s resulted in blacklisting of innocent people. In the Vietnam War era, he said, legitimate criticism of the war was too often "lumped in" with disloyalty to the nation. And, he said, after Sept. 11, some failed to distinguish between peaceful Muslims and Islamic terrorists.
He said he fears Catholic authorities are now making the same mistake.
"I would not want to be in Cardinal (Edward) Egan's shoes right now," Langberg said. "If even a hint of a problem surfaces and he does not overreact, he'll be accused of covering up."
The prosecutors who are now reviewing 35 to 40 years of files from the archdiocese should work quickly, so the names of priests who committed no crimes can be cleared, Langberg said.
More than 200 people signed a petition to the archdiocese asking that Gallant, "a good and holy priest," be returned to St. Joan.
Langberg said he hoped Gallant would return — "accompanied by the cardinal, or another representative of the archdiocese, who can apologize both to you and to him."
Applause and shouts of approval greeted his call for an apology from the Catholic hierarchy.
Evelyn Spina, 75, organized the vigil and petition along with other parishioners, one of whom was Kathleen Do, the wife of a Journal News photography editor.
Spina was puzzled by the priest's sudden removal for an alleged impropriety so far in the past.
"Of course, there might have been something, but the statute of limitations is out on that," she said.
James Giacalone, 81, agreed.
"As long as he's not a pedophile, … they're brushing everybody with the same brush," said Giacalone. "That's not fair. An indiscretion of 22 years ago shouldn't prevail."
Dominick Del Duca, a parishioner and member of the Ramapo Central school board, said he feels sorrow and outrage.
"It's a witch hunt," Del Duca said. "What they're doing is ridiculous."
Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik, a Sloatsburg resident who also came out in support of Gallant, said it seemed to him that the presumption of innocence had been swallowed up in a "media frenzy" over the pedophilia scandal.
Pat O'Brien, 64, a retired firefighter who had been looking forward to having his wedding performed by Gallant, said he was troubled by "a lot of unanswered questions."
Sister Eileen O'Farrell, who has served at St. Joan for 30 of her 50 years as a nun, led a prayer for Gallant. A dozen more nuns were in the crowd.
"We wanted to give our support," said Sister Barbara Stefaniak. "This, to me, is very sad."
By Gary Stern and Richard Liebson
A priest who served as principal at Archbishop Stepinac High School in
White Plains was quietly removed in 1988 after police picked him up for
soliciting sex from a teen-age male on a city street, police
At a hastily arranged meeting between police and top officials of the Archdiocese of New York, it was decided that the matter would be dropped if the Rev. Donald T. Malone were removed from Stepinac and no longer allowed to work with youth.
The deal was cut, years before church officials would learn that Malone had been arrested in 1979 under similar circumstances.
Malone — who was known as "the Count" because he sometimes walked Stepinac's hallways in a black cape, holding a whip — was gone. It was summertime, weeks before what would have been the start of Malone's 10th year as principal of Stepinac, a prominent, all-boys high school that had been planned and built by Cardinal Francis Spellman.
Police confirmed the details of what took place after The Journal News inquired about Malone's exit from Stepinac, for the past 14 years a subject of mystery and rumor in White Plains and the region's Catholic community.
At a time when the Catholic Church is reeling from decades-old cases of sexual misconduct by priests, many of which were covered up by church officials, the Malone case sheds further light on how a major archdiocese once dealt with potentially embarrassing allegations against priests.
From the point of view of police, a key factor in the Malone case was that the teen-ager's family did not want to press charges. This was during a time when allegations of abuse against children or spouses were generally disregarded by authorities when victims did not cooperate.
"Back then, if the victim and the family didn't want to prosecute in a case like this, you didn't go around them," White Plains Police Chief James Bradley said. "We adhered to their wishes.''
Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the archdiocese, confirmed that Malone was quickly taken out of Stepinac.
"When we were approached by the police, we removed him from the school immediately," he said.
Police say the teen-ager Malone approached was a minor, 16 or under, although they do not have his exact age. Zwilling, though, said church records showed he was 17.
Regardless, when teachers and students reported for the opening of the 1988-89 school year, no explanation was given for Malone's disappearance. He had been at Stepinac since 1970 as a teacher, dean of students and principal. But there were no farewell parties, no cards or gifts, for a priest who would not be back.
One veteran Westchester priest, who did not want to be identified because he said archdiocesan officials would not want him discussing the Malone matter, said the reason for Malone's removal from Stepinac was a well-kept secret from the day it happened.
"It was very closely guarded," said the priest, who learned only fragments of what took place. "The story did not get around. There are few people who really know what happened. But you often hear people ask one another, 'What about Don? Where's Don?'"
Even the Rev. James Healy, who served as assistant principal under Malone and took his place when Malone was whisked away, said he has never known what happened to his predecessor.
"I was never told anything," said Healy, now the pastor of St. Vito's Church in Mamaroneck. "I was told to assume the duties of principal, and I did."
After he left Stepinac, Malone was assigned to three parishes between 1989 and 1992: Blessed Sacrament on Staten Island, Holy Family in the Bronx and St. Patrick's in Highland Mills, Orange County.
"We have not received an accusation of any sort from that period," Zwilling said.
Only during Malone's time in Orange County did church officials learn that Malone had been arrested at a state Thruway rest stop in 1979 — the same year that Cardinal Terence Cooke appointed him principal of Stepinac — for public lewdness and loitering. The charges were later dropped.
In 1993, the archdiocese put Malone on a permanent leave of absence, Zwilling said. Malone has been seen in recent years saying Mass in the Hamptons, where he lives in a family-owned cottage on the waterfront. He does so at the request of individual pastors, Zwilling said.
Zwilling added that he was not aware of any accusations that Malone had acted inappropriately toward minors.
Malone, now 67, would answer few questions when approached by a reporter at his Southampton home, a cottage just down the road from a cove marina.
"I'm retired," said Malone, looking fit and rested in a red crew neck sweater. "I left when my terms at Stepinac were up. Nothing more. That's it."
According to police records, White Plains police were contacted in the summer of 1988 by a city family who said their son, a student at a high school other than Stepinac, had been solicited for sex in the downtown area. Police stopped a car fitting the parents' description and found Malone to be the driver.
The boy's family did not want to prosecute, insisting that Malone receive counseling and not be allowed to work with children.
Detectives contacted the archdiocese, and a meeting was arranged within two days. The archdiocese must have taken the situation quite seriously, because, according to police records, the church was represented by Bishop Henry Mansell, then an auxiliary bishop under Cardinal John O'Connor and now the bishop of Buffalo, and Monsignor James Murray, a lawyer and the now-retired director of Catholic Charities.
Cardinal Edward M. Egan also was an auxiliary bishop in New York at the time, as well as vicar of education. He would be named the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., in November 1988. But there is no mention in police records of his being involved in the Malone case.
At the meeting, Mansell and Murray assured Carmine Motto, the late deputy public safety commissioner of White Plains, that if no charges were filed against Malone, he would be removed from Stepinac, sent for counseling and kept away from children.
"To that extent, I'd have to say the archdiocese was very cooperative,'' said John Dolce, the recently retired public safety commissioner of White Plains. "However, sometime later, after Motto retired, he came to see me because he was angry. He'd read that Malone had been given a new assignment that did, in fact, involve him with kids."
Dolce did not know how the matter was resolved.
Murray, who is now retired, told The Journal News he could not recall the Malone matter. Mansell was out of Buffalo and could not be reached for comment, said his spokesman, Kevin Keenan.
One former Stepinac teacher, who did not want to be identified because he feared that the archdiocese might tamper with his pension, said teachers weren't supposed to ask what happened to Malone when they returned to school in the fall of 1989. But anyone who had seen Malone wrestling with students in his office probably had a hunch that Malone had gotten into trouble, he said.
"When he left, there was just a stony silence, a black wall of silence," the former teacher said. "It was wrong, and it created a cynical attitude in the school. When the actions of a priest like Malone are covered up, it does not lead to the education of students, especially the moral education that Catholic schools say they're big on."
By Jose Martinez
Edward Cardinal Egan couldn't dodge the sex-abuse scandal dogging the Catholic Church yesterday - even as he was being awarded an honorary doctorate.
The academic honors were bestowed upon Egan at the College of New Rochelle, where he was cheered by professors, taunted by a few students and chased by camera crews to a waiting car.
[Photo Caption - Outcry: College of New Rochelle student Danielle Davoren, 21, talks to press after she shouted "What about the massive coverup?" to Edward Cardinal Egan. He received honorary doctorate at the school yesterday. Photo by Michael Schwartz.]
Egan received two standing ovations in the college's Holy Family Chapel and vowed to put an end to the sexual abuse "tragedy" that's infected the Catholic Church.
"The tragedy about which we're all learning each day will not continue, will never be repeated," he said. "This is my prayer."
Egan joked with the audience that he hoped it wasn't a sign of things to come when a glass shattered while he was being introduced.
He then turned serious as he pledged to keep kids safe from sexual predators in the clergy.
"Our children are our treasure," Egan said. "We will protect them and no one will be allowed to harm them." Evasive action After being honored, the cardinal walked across campus with supporters to bless and tour the renovated Mother Irene Gill Library.
But he was spotted trying to slip out a back door by a crowd of reporters.
They gave chase - and followed Egan to his waiting car. But the cardinal appeared oblivious to them, instead thanking and shaking hands with his hosts.
He also ignored taunts from a few students protesting his appearance.
"What about the massive coverup?" 21-year-old Danielle Davoren yelled at Egan as he ducked into his car.
But a longtime friend of Egan's took the embattled cardinal's words at face value. Support from host "I really heard him make a very forthright statement about his highest priority," said Stephen Sweeny, the college's president. "It's my sense that he's going to make sure the house of the archdiocese is in very good order."
During his remarks, Egan didn't provide specifics on how he plans to protect children from pedophile priests.
Under pressure to cooperate with Manhattan prosecutors, he reversed field last week and turned over a list detailing four decades worth of sex abuse allegations against members of the clergy.
The Archdiocese of New York also has suspended six accused priests and barred another from celebrating Mass at a Westchester parish.
By Douglas Montero
Just before the Easter break, the unexpected edict from the monsignor landed on the Bronx Catholic high school like an ax - the school will be closed at year's end.
Pleas and letters, including one sent yesterday to Edward Cardinal Egan, asking why were ignored.
St. Helena's Commercial HS showed a small deficit - just $14,000 - last year.
It looks like the archdiocese places a greater value on using its money to pay for settlements with the victims of sexual abuse to protect its reputation than to fund the "mission" of providing a Catholic-centered education to city kids.
The archdiocese paid $100,000 to one man in 1997 who said Monsignor William White molested him.
A former altar boy reportedly got a $23,000 1996 Honda Accord, a free semester at school, therapy and $35,000 to keep quiet about his accusations against the Rev. Francis Stinner, an upstate child molester.
Michael Dowd, a lawyer who has represented priest sex-abuse victims over the past seven years, estimated the archdiocese has paid between $5 million and $20 million over the past 15 years to get rid of complaints. Nationally, the payoffs have reached $1 billion.
"If they want to pay the victim to protect the pedophile, why don't they sell the archbishop's residence first?" Dowd said, referring to the Egan's swanky Madison Avenue digs.
"I think it's ludicrous to talk about closing schools . . . you end up punishing the parishioners whose blood, sweat and tears have paid for every brick in every church and school in New York."
Last year, the archdiocese laid off 23 workers and closed three financially troubled schools, including St. Bernard/St. Xavier in Manhattan, now being rented out to the Board of Education.
Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, has refused to disclose the church's financial dealing in sex-abuse cases. When asked about St. Helena's Wednesday, he said it was a parish-run school, got no support from the archdiocese and that its students will be absorbed by a nearby high school.
By Daniel Tepfer email@example.com
Bridgeport - In the maelstrom over revelations that a Catholic priest impregnated a local girl, a former church employee claims that not only did then-Bishop Edward M. Egan know about the affair, he directed management of the potentially explosive situation.
Like the chairman of the board, Egan sat at the head of the dining table in the rectory of St. Augustine's Cathedral in late summer or early fall of 1989, telling other Diocese of Bridgeport officials how to handle the situation, according to the woman, who asked that her name not be used.
"Joseph [DeShan] has decided to go because he had gotten [the girl] pregnant," the woman recalled Egan telling other priests at the table.
The woman's account of the apparent coverup was labeled a "total fabrication," by Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport. The charge is the latest in a series of questions raised about how Egan, who was bishop of Bridgeport for 12 years, handled sexual-abuse cases involving priests. Egan was named archbishop of New York in May 2000 and elevated to the rank of cardinal in February 2001.
On Friday, diocesan officials said the former priest, Joseph Michael DeShan, acknowledged in 1994 that he had had a sexual relationship with a "woman" beginning in October 1988 and that because of that relationship the woman gave birth to their child in May 1990.
They said DeShan volunteered to leave the priesthood and admitted to the affair when interviewed about his decision.
McAleer said Friday the diocese knew nothing about the relationship until 1994. He said information he provided Thursday -- that diocesan officials knew about the relationship in 1989 -- was inaccurate and the result of a "misunderstanding."
McAleer also said that in 1994 DeShan did not disclose to church officials the woman's name or age, saying only that he was in a monogamous relationship with a woman.
The woman, who lives in Bridgeport, told the Connecticut Post her relationship with DeShan began when she was 14 and working after school at St. Augustine's rectory.
She also said she was fired by Monsignor William Scheyd after he became aware she was pregnant, a claim McAleer denies.
In a statement Friday, the diocese contended neither the woman nor her family had informed Egan or the diocese of the situation.
The woman, however, insisted that she had told church officials.
"They knew about it," she said later Friday. But she declined further comment, saying the controversy has left her distraught.
The former church employee who recounted the dinner at which Egan and other diocesan officials allegedly discussed the DeShan affair said she was hired in late summer 1989 to replace the girl with whom the priest had a relationship.
She said she was 15 at the time and a parishioner at St. Augustine's.
"Monsignor Scheyd approached me and said they had to let [the girl] go and would I like to take her place," she recalled. "We all knew Father DeShan had gotten her pregnant; it was common knowledge in the rectory and it was the reason he had left and she had been fired."
The woman said she was one of a group of teen-aged girls hired to work from 5 to 9 p.m. in the rectory for $3.50 an hour as a receptionist, and to serve the priests dinner and clean up afterward. She said they also served meals to homeless people who came to the door of the rectory.
"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.
"Father DeShan was a very nice priest; he was very good looking. We all thought he was cute with dark hair and blue eyes," the woman said. "Everyone opted to go to Father DeShan if we had a problem. He was like the hip priest."
She said about two weeks after DeShan left the rectory she was serving dinner in the dining room. She recalled that Egan sat at the head of the table, and that Scheyd and several other priests were present.
She said Egan was discussing the relationship between DeShan and the girl and how the diocese should proceed. At one point she said Scheyd noticed she was there and motioned to Egan "and they hushed up."
She said she is "absolutely sure," based on her recollection of the conversation, that Egan knew DeShan was having an affair with the girl. She said she is equally sure Scheyd knew how old the girl was because he had hired her.
"It's not true," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, who returned telephone calls seeking comment from Egan. However, when asked what the basis for the denial was, Zwilling snapped, "It's not based on anything The cardinal did not know about it until 1994."
Scheyd, now at St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Norwalk, was unavailable for comment.
Though DeShan had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, he won't be prosecuted for it.
"We can not prosecute without a complaint and we have never received a complaint," said State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict. "In addition, the allegations appear to have occurred beyond the statute of limitations.
Priests and church officials are required by law to report incidents of sexual assault, including sexual relations with a child under 16. However, there is a one-year statute of limitations.
Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.
By Ken Valenti and Noreen O’Donnell
The Archdiocese of New York yesterday denied that Cardinal Edward M. Egan knew of and failed to tell civil authorities about a sexual relationship between a priest and a minor girl when he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn.
A joint statement released by the archdiocese and the Diocese of Bridgeport also disputed reports in Connecticut newspapers that the diocese knew the former Rev. Joseph DeShan had impregnated a woman before 1994, when DeShan petitioned to return to the laity. The statement also questioned whether the girl was a minor.
Reports of DeShan's relationship, coupled with a report yesterday in The Journal News that a principal at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, the Rev. Donald T. Malone, was removed in 1988 after police picked him up for soliciting sex from a teen-age male, made for another trying day for area Catholics.
"We are not going to be treated as children, and we are not going to be kept in the dark," said Georgianna Grant, a Croton-on-Hudson village trustee and 50-year member of Holy Name of Mary Church. She called the new reports "absolutely unacceptable."
"And the laity is not going to take that kind of treatment anymore," she said.
Grant's church was shocked this month when it learned that the Rev. Kenneth Jesselli had been removed for unspecified "inappropriate behavior," two years after he was sent to replace another priest accused of sexual misconduct.
Other parishioners were less critical of the church leadership yesterday and faulted the media for paying too much attention to the crisis.
Helen Manes, also a Holy Name of Mary parishioner, condemned the behavior of priests who abuse children, but said reporting on the scandal had become sensationalized. She said the sexual abuse of children has taken place in many institutions, including schools and the Boy Scouts.
"I don't think the faith should be disdained because of what the church may have done," she said. "I believe in the Catholic faith. I don't know how well the church has done."
In the joint statement from church officials in New York and Bridgeport, it was argued that the person DeShan impregnated "may have been 16," the age of consent in Connecticut.
"Thus, contrary to the report in The Hartford Courant, there would have been no crime to be reported," the statement continued. It said that DeShan "never informed then-Bishop Egan that he had had sexual relations with a minor. Nor did the woman or her family so inform Cardinal Egan or the Diocese."
The Courant reported that the woman was 15 when the relationship began and that DeShan revealed the relationship to the diocese in 1989, when he asked for a leave of absence.
Stanley Tomkiel III, president of the Catholic Coalition of Westchester, said that the church needed to more closely screen people entering seminaries and that "any kind of misconduct is reprehensible, and hopefully the guilty parties will be punished accordingly."
But he added that the issue has been overplayed, and "there is a danger here of a witch hunt."
To Joseph Fosina, a New Rochelle City Council member who attends Mass with his wife at Holy Family Church each Sunday, the number of priests accused of inappropriate behavior is a disappointment. Fosina and his wife have a large family, with many children and grandchildren still in the city.
"With 11 grandchildren, we have communions and confirmations almost every year," he said. As troubling as the church's recent problems are, Fosina said, "I don't think it's shaken the faith of most Catholics. It certainly hasn't in my family."
In the Malone case, police and archdiocese officials agreed in 1988 that the issue would be dropped if Malone were removed from the school and no longer allowed to work with youth. A message left yesterday for the current Stepinac principal, Steven Murphy, was not returned.
In the Connecticut case, the woman DeShan impregnated said she believed she was fired as an evening receptionist from a Bridgeport cathedral because she was pregnant, a charge church leaders also disputed. DeShan, now married with two children, pays child support to the now 28-year-old mother, according to reports.
By Dave Goldliner
Another sex abuse scandal from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., had Edward Cardinal Egan on the defensive yesterday, as charges surfaced that he protected a priest who had an affair with an underage girl while Egan was bishop there.
The girl was 15 when she began her relationship with then-Rev. Joseph DeShan in 1988, according to published reports.
[Photo Caption - New Scandal: Edward Cardinal Egan heads to sacristy of Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, Conn., in 2000. Photo by AP.]
She became pregnant in September 1989, two months after her 16th birthday.
According to published reports, DeShan informed the Diocese of Bridgeport that he had carried on a sexual relationship with the girl. The priest then took a leave of absence and later left the priesthood.
But in a joint statement, Bridgeport and New York church officials denied that Egan or any top church official knew that DeShan was having sex with a teenager.
"DeShan never informed then-Bishop Egan that he had had sexual relations with a minor," said a joint statement issued by the Diocese of Bridgeport and the New York Archdiocese.
Details in dispute
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said the priest did not reveal the affair to top church officials until 1994, when he formally left the priesthood.
Even then, DeShan never revealed the girl's name and did not say that she was underage, Zwilling insisted.
But Egan and his aides made no attempt to discover the identity, age or gender of DeShan's lover, Zwilling acknowledged.
Unlike New York, Connecticut requires church officials to report cases of suspected sexual abuse, including statutory rape, which is a felony.
The woman, a single mom now struggling to raise the priest's daughter, said the church was protecting the priest.
"People shouldn't be naive," the woman told the Hartford Courant. "The church hides things, too."
The revelations in Connecticut came as the Brooklyn Diocese gave prosecutors the first files on 15 priests accused of sexually abusing children. The files include eight Brooklyn priests and seven from Queens, sources said.
Files on about 20 other priests who have faced sex abuse allegations - some dating back more than two decades - are expected next week, law enforcement sources said.
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