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Charge Against Plesetz Echoed

A woman in Irvine says she, too, had a child by the former Catholic priest assigned to a Dana Point church.

By Carol McGraw
The Orange County Register

A second woman surfaced Thursday to accuse former Catholic priest Gerald John Plesetz of fathering another child at a time he was supposed to be offering spiritual counseling.

Plesetz, 59, out on bail and awaiting arraignment Oct. 25, was arrested this week on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl who had a child in 1974. He admitted to sheriff's investigators that the child was his, court records say.

Plesetz, who lives in Orange and works for Orange County Health Care Agency, said Thursday that his relationship with the girl, now a woman identified in court papers as "Janet M," was "a foolish mistake."

"It was a stupid thing. It was a terrible thing."

He declined further comment on the charges, saying he didn't want to sound "whiny" and that he was in the process of hiring a lawyer.

The second woman, who lives in Irvine, said she came forward to support Janet M. To protect other family members, she said, she did not want her name revealed.

"It took extraordinary courage for Janet M to speak out," she said. "And I would like to dispel the notion that this conduct on the part of Father Jerry was an isolated event."

The Irvine woman said that, around 1976, when she was 22 years old, she returned to St. Edward Church in Dana Point after a divorce that had separated her from her Catholic faith. She was referred to Plesetz for counseling.

"I longed to once again be a member of the Catholic Church community, to be right with God, to be able to receive Communion. Father Jerry gave his assurance he would help me."

But eventually he made sexual advances toward her, she said.

"It was very confusing. He took advantage of his position of power and my vulnerability. I felt he was the one who held the power to my reconciliation with the church."

She said that when she became pregnant he first denied the child was his, but then said she could count on him.

Three months later she found out that he had left the priesthood and married a woman who attended St. Cecilia's Church in Tustin, where he had also served. That woman is now deceased.

The Irvine woman called her daughter "an incredible gift from God, and I am unquestionably thankful for her. However, the circumstances under which she was born were devastating."

Plesetz most recently served as a priest at St. Matthew Church in Orange. Married priests can serve in that church, which is affiliated with the Old Catholic movement.

Bishop Peter Hickman said he let the priest go this summer after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told him of Janet M's allegations. Hickman said Plesetz told him that those allegations were true and said it was a "foolish thing" that happened after he was newly ordained. "He said he always regretted it," Hickman said.


Contact McGraw at (714) 796-4945 or cmcgraw@ocregister.com


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org