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Catholic preacher identified within Pennsylvania child sex abuse report worked in multiple Colorado parishes following alleged abuse
It’s turned into a tragically common story: a priest is charged with molesting a minor or even confesses it to other clergy, and in place of being taken away from ministry, is simply relocated to another location. This was the truth with Stephen Edward Jeselnick, a priest named in the alarming Pennsylvania grand jury report that uncovered more than 300 abusers. Yes, you read that right. Over 300 abusers.
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Based on the report, Jeselnick was employed in Pennsylvania in the late 1970's when he allegedly sexually assaulted 3 siblings. The 3 victims, now adults, have testified that the sexual abuse included repeated incidents both within their own home along with at the church. The priest was subsequently transferred to Colorado and worked there in early 80s before becoming an Air Force chaplain. Throughout his time in Colorado, the diocese claims they never obtained any complaint towards him. Many find this hard to believe.
The grand jury report discloses that in 2014, Jeselnick sought a letter of recommendation from the bishop of Eerie, Pennsylvania. However, after researching his record and doing an internet search, Persico denied Jeselnick’s faculties as a priest and explained to him that he won't ever again be granted permission to serve in public ministry.
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The bishop’s position may have been motivated by a 2008 news item with regards to a man who stated that Jeselnick sexually attacked him in 1980, when the two were both young adults. The man in due course sued Jeselnick and won a settlement deal.
The three siblings mentioned earlier came forward only in 2017. Regrettably, the state’s statute of limitations has ended, and it is now too late to criminally prosecute Jeselnick. He is currently retired from the air force and located in Colorado.
This story reveals the nationwide significance of the Pennsylvania report: Several priests revealed in it have served (and perhaps harmed children) in lots of other states. The event can be another reminder of the large amounts of time that can pass between an act of child sex abuse and the victim’s ability to come forward and tell their story. In this case, many years. Survivors feel shame and quite often blame themselves for what transpired, making it challenging to get their stories out to the public, or prevent this from happening to someone else. The Pennsylvania grand jury report, with its hundreds of victim accounts, is one step toward acknowledging that these victims are not alone.
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Although Jeselnick is currently safe from legal proceedings, if the statute of limitations were changed or lifted, he could potentially be prosecuted. Victim advocates around the country have called for statutes of limitation reform so that situations like this one can finally be brought to justice.
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