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Ex-Calif. Priest Arrested For Abuse

Sep 25, 2002 | AP

A former Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on molestation charges after allegedly confessing to an undercover deputy who was posing as the daughter he is accused of helping put up for adoption three decades ago.

Gerald John Plesetz, 59, of Orange, was taken into custody Tuesday at his home on three counts of child molestation, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

Plesetz was arrested after an undercover deputy, posing as the alleged victim's daughter, confronted the former priest about a girl who allegedly gave birth to his child 30 years ago.

"Investigators covertly taped a conversation between an officer posing as the victim's daughter, and obtained incriminating statements," Amormino said.

Plesetz, who was being held on $50,000 bail, was charged under a statute of limitations provision that gives authorities the right to file charges up to one year after the victim has been identified.

"The victim came forward several months ago," Amormino said.

Although authorities identified Plesetz as a former priest, it was not immediately clear where and under what circumstances he left the priesthood. A telephone call to the Diocese of Orange was not immediately returned.

The victim alleged she was molested by Plesetz between April 14, 1972, and Oct. 1, 1974, according to a criminal complaint filed by the district attorney's office.

The woman, now 45, claimed she was a member of the choir at St. Edward Catholic Church when she first met Plesetz, who played piano for the choir, the complaint said.

The woman said her relationship with Plesetz ended when she became pregnant at age 16. It was unclear why prosecutors did not charge him with statutory rape.

The woman told her parents that Plesetz was the father. According to the complaint, Plesetz told the family he would take care of it and paid the expenses of the birth and a subsequent adoption.

The woman went to police several months ago after hearing of other priest abuse cases, Amormino said.

On July 2, the undercover officer called Plesetz. He agreed to meet the woman and allegedly confessed his sexual relationship and arranging the adoption, the complaint said.

In other developments related to the church abuse scandal:

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed Tuesday that more than 80 priests have been accused of molesting minors over the past seven decades.

In a letter sent to the 180,000 Catholic households in the archdiocese, Cardinal William H. Keeler said that since the 1930s, 41 diocesan priests and 42 men in religious orders and priests from other dioceses have been accused of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.

None of the men is now in ministry, and all the cases have been reported to civil authorities, Keeler said. Twenty-six of the priests died before their accusers came forward.

The cardinal also said that the archdiocese has reached settlements with eight victims totaling $4.1 million over the past 20 years. Most of it covered by insurance.

"I am deeply sorry for the harm done to children entrusted to our care," Keeler wrote. "I humbly ask forgiveness for my mistakes. Please pray for me so that I may better serve."

In Virginia, a Roman Catholic priest was stripped of his ministry Tuesday after an investigation unearthed decades-old incidents of sexual misconduct with minors, officials said.

The Rev. Eugene Teslovic, a pastor at St. Luke's in Virginia Beach, has been removed from all priestly duties, said the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

Bishop Walter F. Sullivan determined that Teslovic had been involved in several incidents of sexual misconduct with minors during the late 1970s and mid 1980s.

Apuzzo said none of the victims have come forward, and none were interviewed by the diocese. He said no information has been forwarded to prosecutors.

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