Hopkins Priest Is Accused, Resigns

By Stephen Scott
Saint Paul Pioneer Press [Minnesota]
May 21, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest in Hopkins announced Sunday he is leaving his parish because of allegations of sexual misconduct made against him in New Jersey.

It was the third revelation within 24 hours of such allegations against a Twin Cities Roman Catholic priest or brother.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said the newest allegations came to light two weeks ago when it was contacted by the Archdiocese of Newark. Shortly afterward, the Rev. Robert Zasacki offered his resignation, archdiocese spokeswoman Nicole Selleck said. It was unclear what the allegations involve or when they surfaced in Newark, she said.

Zasacki's resignation from the Church of St. Joseph in Hopkins, which he told the congregation about during Masses on Sunday, is effective immediately. He has served in several parishes during his time in Minnesota.

Zasacki was ordained in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1967. All questions there Monday afternoon were referred to spokesman Jim Goodness, who was unavailable for comment.

"My understanding is that at the time he came here, his past was never made known to us," Selleck said.

Zasacki was not available Monday, and the Hopkins church referred all questions to the archdiocese.

Nancy Jansen, vice chairwoman of the St. Joseph pastoral council, said church leaders would be meeting in the next couple of days.

Zasacki moved to Hopkins in November from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale. He previously served at St. Peter in Forest Lake and St. Joseph and St. Peter in Delano.

Before he officially became a priest of the Twin Cities archdiocese, he also served in Lindstrom and Circle Pines and at the Cathedral of St. Paul, according to the archdiocesan newspaper.

In the other cases that came to light Sunday:

Selleck took exception to a KSTP-TV report about the Rev. Gil Gustafson, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a young boy and who the station reported continues to celebrate Mass in Bloomington.

"Under our policy, he is monitored, doing limited work, administrative only," Selleck said. "Once in a while, he serves as a chaplain for St. Clare's Monastery, a cloistered community of nuns. Everyone in the community knows about his past.

"If there are people there from the public, they're there on invitation."

The archdiocese in March stated that no known child-abuse offenders were serving in parish ministry.

Earlier this month it confirmed it was investigating charges made by Michael Flaherty, 58, of Savage against retired Bishop Paul Dudley of Northfield.

Dudley strongly maintains his innocence, and the investigation is continuing, Selleck said Monday.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Harry Flynn leaves today for Washington, D.C., where he will meet Wednesday with the U.S. Catholic bishops' ad hoc committee on sexual abuse.

Flynn is chairman of the committee, which will report next month to all U.S. Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas.


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