Priest Admits Sex Crimes with Five Boys

By Mary Jo Layton
The Record [New Jersey]
March 18, 1994

A Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts of child endangerment, confessing that he had masturbated in front of five boys in Lyndhurst last summer.

Under the terms of a plea bargain with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, the Rev. Peter M. Walsh, a Franciscan priest, admitted in state Superior Court that he committed the crimes. He is expected to be sentenced in May to probation with several conditions, including that he continue to receive psychiatric treatment.

Walsh, 42, was a Troy, N.Y., pastor when he was charged Aug. 24 in two incidents that occurred while he was visiting family members in Lyndhurst. He was reassigned to the Franciscans' Manhattan office after his arrest.

Asked by his lawyer, Mark L. Groothuis, whether he had masturbated in view of the boys, Walsh said yes.

The first incident occurred when Walsh parked his car in front of the Washington School and exposed himself to a group of four boys ages 7, 9, 10, and 11, authorities said.

There was no conversation between the priest and the boys, but Walsh positioned his car in a way that he could not be avoided, authorities said at the time of his arrest.

The next day Walsh parked on Stuyvesant and Post avenues and tapped on the car window to get the attention of a 13-year-old boy. He then exposed himself to the boy.

Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Ike Gavzy recommended probation with several conditions: Walsh may not supervise children, cannot drive without an adult chaperone, and must continue psychological counseling with a professional trained in the treatment of sex offenders. He also must pay counseling costs if any of his victims seek treatment.

None of the victims has sought counseling, Gavzy said. The plea agreement was approved by the families of all the victims, Gavzy said.

Although probation is likely, Superior Court Judge George Parsons Jr. advised Walsh that he could receive up to five years in prison on each count and be fined.

Church officials who attended Thursday's hearing said Walsh was assigned to office work in Manhattan.

"He's still a member of the religious community," said the Rev. Roderick Crispo, the provincial of the Franciscan order in Manhattan.

Asked whether Walsh would ever serve as a priest again, Crispo said the church hierarchy would permit it if counseling was successful."We're going to see he gets all the help he needs so he can fulfill his duties."

Asked how the priest spends his days, Crispo clasped his hands in prayer.


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