Fr. Stephen Perzan – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Fr. Stephen Perzan in a 1964 photo from Horowitz Law
Stephen Perzan in a 1964 photo.

Father Stephen Perzan

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Ordained: 1967

Not listed in Official Catholic Directory: 1989-1994

Accused: 2004, 2005

On duty outside of Archdiocese: 1994-1998, 2002-2004

Removed from ministry: 2011

Permanently restricted from ministry: 2013

Assigned as follows:

  • 1973-1974 St. Stanislaus (Lansdale, PA)
  • 1974-1975 St. Pius X (Broomall, PA)
  • 1975-1980 St. Elizabeth (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1980-1985 St. Benedict (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1985-1987 St. Rose of Lima (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1987-1989 St. Charles Borromeo (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1989-1994 Not Listed in The Official Catholic Directory
  • 1994-1998 St. Francis of Assisi (Lumberton, NM)
  • 1994-1998 St. Anthony (Dulce, NM)
  • 1998 St. Hugh of Cluny (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 1998-2002 Visitation B.V.M. (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2002-2004 Diocese of Arecibo (Puerto Rico)
  • 2004-2010 St. Helena (Philadelphia, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Stephen Perzan:

The allegations against Father Stephen Perzan were examined at length in the 2011 grand jury report.  According to that report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia received two separate complaints that Perzan fondled them on multiple occasions, and there was corroborating evidence provided by other clergy members, yet he remained in ministry.  

  • The 2004 Complaint from St. Gabriel

The first complaint was received in July 2004.  A man in his late 20s reported that he was abused by Perzan at St. Gabriel in 1991.  The Archdiocese wrote back, on advice of legal counsel, and requested additional information so that his allegation “could be forwarded to the local district attorney.”  Despite the fact that the man provided additional details of his abuse, they were never reported to the District Attorney. The Archdiocese also withheld all of the documents relating to the allegations from the grand jury that was investigating the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at that time, including several letters from the victim specifically stating that Perzan plied him with pornography and masturbated him on at least four occasions.  He was even able to describe and draw Perzan’s rectory bedroom.

During the internal investigation of the allegation, a St. Gabriel staff member told the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s internal investigator (likely a Chancery official) that Perzan regularly had young boys in his rectory bedroom, including the man making the allegation.  

  • The 1998 Letter from the St. Hugh’s Pastor

Also withheld from the grand jury was a 1998 letter to Msgr. William Lynn, the Vicar for Clergy, from the pastor of St. Hugh of Cluny parish.  The pastor complained of the number of young boys and “street people” that Perzan regularly allowed into the rectory at St. Hugh. He also expressed concern that Perzan often spent 20-30 minutes in the confessional with young children, and worried that the “troublesome” behavior “might reflect deeper problems.”

  • The 2005 Allegation from St. Gabriel

In 2005, a second man approached the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and reported that he was sexually abused by Perzan at St. Gabriel from 1993-1994.  During that time, he says that Perzan fondled and masturbated him in Perzan’s car, in the church, and in the bathroom of a homeless shelter where Perzan sometimes took students.

  • Corroborative evidence is ignored and allegations are deemed “unsubstantiated” so Perzan can return to ministry

During the course of the investigation of the second allegation, the Archdiocese learned of information corroborating the first man’s allegations before it had closed its investigation into them.  A religious brother assigned to St. Gabriel at the time told the investigator (John Rossiter) that Perzan had to be reminded not to bring children into private areas.  Another brother expressed concern that Perzan was “too friendly” with children and wondered why he was always hanging out with young boys. Still another clergy member assigned to St. Gabriel recalled going into Perzan’s bedroom at about 10 p.m. and finding him with a young boy standing in front of him.  The witness reported that Perzan was telling the boy to “come closer” when they were interrupted. A witness also recalled that Perzan had a VCR in his bedroom during that time, which corroborated the first man’s report of having watched pornography. In fact, the witness who interrupted Perzan with a boy at 10:00 p.m. recalled rumors during that time that Perzan was showing boys pornography.  

Despite this information, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s internal review board determined that the first set of allegations could not be substantiated, and no action was taken against Perzan.  

During the investigation of the second allegation, Perzan underwent a polygraph examination.  An expert opined that Perzan was deceptive when he denied fondling minors at St. Gabriels, and also denied watching pornography with, and fondling himself in front of, children.      

The Review Board again determined that the second set of allegations against Perzan were unsubstantiated.  

In explaining its decisions, the Review Board said the first set was unsubstantiated because the victim said Perzan once wore a jumpsuit and no one could corroborate that fact.  The second set was deemed unsubstantiated because there was no evidence to suggest that Perzan’s actions (e.g., fondling the boy’s naked penis) were sexual in nature except the victim’s own statement.  

  • The Archdiocese continued to endanger kids until the release of the second Grand Jury report

Perzan returned to ministry without restriction.  He was assigned to a parish with a grammar school and placed in charge of the regional C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization).    

Perzan remained in ministry until he was removed in the Spring of 2011 following the release of the second grand jury report, along with 20 other previously accused priests still in active ministry.  In 2013, the Archdiocese announced that he had been found “unsuitable for ministry” following additional investigation, but did not expand on the nature of why it found him unsuitable except to say that he violated the Standards of Ministerial Behaviors and Boundaries.  No additional information about those violations was provided to the public, except for a general statement that priests removed for that reason generally had “boundary issues with children.” According to media reports, “Church officials have declined to release details on specific accusations but say “boundary issues” can include inappropriate talk or contact, sharing alcohol or pornography with minors or other conduct that may be construed as “grooming” a victim.”

It is unclear if Perzan is still alive and, if so, where he is currently living.  His status with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is also unclear, as it has not listed Perzan on its website as a priest who has been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.  He is believed to be in his late 70s.

 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Philadelphia now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.