Priest Put on Probation

By Robert Behre
Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
April 10, 1998

The Rev. Eugene L. Condon, who held a series of posts with Catholic churches in the Lowcountry, was put on probation for five years for committing lewd acts with boys more than two decades ago.

Condon pleaded guilty Thursday to one charge of committing a lewd act upon a minor and two charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

His plea came under case law that allows someone to maintain his innocence but to plead guilty because it would be better for him than being convicted.

The 68-year-old priest told Circuit Judge Costa M. Pleicones that he never intended to hurt anyone and asked for forgiveness.

"I'd like to thank God for the strength to bear the last few years," he said. He also thanked those who prayed for him.

Two victims took the witness stand and gave moving accounts of how the priest took advantage of their trust.

"I thought he was my friend," said one victim, who said Condon gave him alcohol, watched him fall asleep and tried to molest him while in Edgefield County around 1961. The victim had gone to Condon for confession after a different priest molested him.

"Only after 25 years of therapy have I come to an awareness of the damage that this man did to me," the victim said.

Another victim said he was an altar boy and a teen-ager attending Stella Maris school on Sullivan's Island around 1971 when Condon attempted to perform a lewd act on him. Three years ago, this victim went to the FBI, which turned its findings over to the state.

"We were misled by a sly and crafty deviate. We were led down a dark and confusing path," the second victim said, adding that the encounter likely fueled his later problems with alcohol and drugs. "There will never be a time when I say all of this will behind me."

That victim asked Pleicones to give Condon the maximum prison sentence possible, but another woman who knew Condon spoke on his behalf.

"This man is a wonderful human being who has spread God's love more than he has ever hurt anybody," she said.

Pleicones said he was moved by the depth and sincerity "and obvious truthfulness, in my judgment," of the victims.

However, he also noted that 9th Circuit Solicitor David Schwacke's office had no recommendation about the sentence, that other priests had received probation for similar crimes and that the date of the last known incident was 1976. An anonymous group took out ads in newspapers across the state to seek out more victims, but none were found.

Condon will have to register as a sexual offender, and Pleicones said he can have no personal contact with any male under 18 without parental consent and supervision.

"Luckily for the victims in this state, there's no statute of limitations on any crime, so we were able to prosecute," Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash said.

"I am thankful that it ended in a plea and that the victims didn't have to be further traumatized by going through a trial," she added. "It seems that these victims really suffered greatly, and a trial would have just added further trauma."

After the sentencing, Condon's lawyer Andy Savage said Condon's plea was the appropriate decision to get the incident behind him. He noted that Condon recently ministered to Savage's mother, who died in January after an illness.

"He's been isolated. He's been cut off from the church. It's been a difficult time for him," Savage said.

Savage also said he hoped the Catholic Church would reconsider its banishment of Condon and let him serve in some capacity that doesn't violate the terms of his probation.

In 1996, Condon - then 66 years old - was granted early retirement from St. John's Catholic Church in North Charleston, a post he had held since 1991. His career spanned four decades and involved work at Stella Maris from 1971 to 1977 and two years as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street.

He also served as pastor of St. Peter in Beaufort and Holy Cross on St. Helena Island (1979-85) and pastor of Sacred Heart on King Street (1985-91).


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