BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, knew that a teenager working in a rectory had become pregnant by a priest in 1989, two newspapers reported Friday.
Egan, now head of the Archdiocese of New York, allowed Joseph Michael DeShan to leave the priesthood, the Connecticut Post and The Hartford Courant reported.
In a joint statement Friday, the Bridgeport and New York dioceses disputed parts of the report, saying the diocese did not know DeShan had fathered a child until five years later, when he petitioned to leave the priesthood.
DeShan's relationship with the teenager began in 1988 and the girl became pregnant the following year, the newspapers said. Now 28, she lives in Bridgeport and is raising her daughter. Neither newspaper identified the mother.
"I was young and naive and had very low self-esteem and he was this priest who could do no wrong," the mother told the Post.
The Courant said a check by the church would have showed the relationship began while the girl was under the age of 16 — considered statutory rape under Connecticut law.
DeShan gave church officials the girl's name and said she worked at the rectory of St. Augustine Cathedral, Bridgeport diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer told The Courant.
"Obviously, the church today would not condone what is a criminal act and neither would society," McAleer said. "If it happened today, this would be reported to the authorities without question."
The Bridgeport and New York dioceses, in their joint statement, said DeShan informed the Bridgeport diocese in 1994 that he had a "monogamous relationship with a woman." The record includes speculation by DeShan's psychologist that the girl was 16, but that is the age of consent in Connecticut, the statement said.
DeShan never told Egan or the Bridgeport diocese that he had sex with a minor, nor did the girl or her family, the dioceses said.
The mother told the Post that DeShan sends her a monthly support check of $348 but has no other contact with her or the child. She said she lived with DeShan until their daughter was 2, first in Vermont and later with DeShan's parents in New Jersey.
"His parents didn't know my age, and he told me not to tell them. I felt the whole situation wasn't right," she told the Post. She said she took their daughter and moved in with her family in Bridgeport.
At first, she said, DeShan would come and visit her in Bridgeport.
"I couldn't complain until he got married, and then his wife had a problem with him visiting our daughter," she told the Post. "He just dropped off the face of the Earth after that."
But she said DeShan contacted her this week to say she should not comment about the relationship.
DeShan and his wife have two children and live in a Philadelphia suburb, The Courant reported. He teaches fifth grade at a public elementary school in Cinnaminson, N.J.
In a brief interview in a parking lot outside the school, DeShan did not dispute the details of the relationship but declined to say whether Egan knew of the girl's age, The Courant said.
"It was a consensual relationship that didn't work out," he said. "I have no ax to grind with the church."
The mother said she was fired by the church shortly after she told DeShan she was pregnant. Monsignor William Scheyd, a top aide to Egan, told her she was going to be replaced by someone more experienced. But she said she believes she was fired because she was pregnant.
Scheyd told The Courant he could not recall the circumstances of her departure, and said he did not remember whether he knew she was pregnant at the time.
In the statement Friday, the dioceses said Scheyd was not aware of the girl's relationship with DeShan and did not ask her to stop working at the rectory, even though he was dissatisfied with her work.
The mother told the Post she is trying raise her daughter as best she can.
"She turns 12 next week," she said. "She doesn't know much about her father, how we met or anything about that. But she asks me a lot of questions. Her friends at school are always telling her she has such a young-looking mother."