Father Stephen Perzan
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
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 – lived at St. Gabriel’s Hall during this period
- 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:
Father Stephen Perzan was ordained a priest in 1967 and served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He served in multiple parishes throughout his career. According to Philadelphia 2011 Grand Jury Report, two separate allegations of repeated child sexual abuse by Perzan were reported. Despite corroborating evidence provided by other clergy members, 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 Father Stephen 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 Father Stephen 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
Father Stephen 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 Archdiocese of Philadelphia may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.