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It’s turned into a tragically familiar narrative: a priest is charged with molesting minors, or even confesses it to other clergy, and in place of being taken out of ministry, is simply relocated to another destination. This was the situation with Stephen Edward Jeselnick, a priest named in the alarming Pennsylvania grand jury report that exposed more than 300 abusers.
According to the shocking report, Jeselnick was employed in Pennsylvania in the late 70s when he allegedly sexually assaulted 3 brothers. The 3 victims, now fully grown men, have testified that the abuse included repeated incidents both at their residence and the church. The priest was subsequently transferred to Colorado and served there in the early 80s before becoming an Air Force chaplain. In his time in Colorado, the diocese states they never obtained any complaint towards him.
The grand jury report uncovers that in 2014, Jeselnick sought a letter of recommendation from the bishop of Eerie, Pennsylvania. After reviewing his file and performing an internet search, Persico denied Jeselnick’s faculties as a priest and informed him that he will never again be granted permission to serve in public ministry.
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The bishop’s stance may have been motivated by a 2008 news item in regards to a male who declared that Jeselnick sexually assaulted him in 1980, when the two were both young adults. The man sooner or later sued Jeselnick and triumphed in a settlement.
The three brothers would later come forward in 2017. Unfortunately, the state statute of limitations has run out, and it is now too late to prosecute Jeselnick. He is presently retired from the air force and located in Colorado.
This account discloses the nationwide effects described in the Pennsylvania report: Many priests identified in it have served (and perhaps damaged children) in other states.
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The event is also a reminder of the huge amounts of time that may pass between an act of child sex abuse and the victim’s ability to come forward and accuse their attacker. in this case, a long time. Survivors come to feel shame and often blame themselves for what occurred, making it challenging to tell their story. The Pennsylvania grand jury report, with its hundreds of victim accounts, is one step toward showing these victims that they are not alone, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Although Jeselnick is currently safe from legal proceedings, if the statute of limitations were changed or lifted, he could potentially be prosecuted. Victim advocates across the country have called for statutes of limitations to be extended or done away with so that circumstances like this one can finally be brought to justice.
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