NEW YORK - Actor Stephen Collins, who played the family pastor in the television series "7th Heaven," has admitted to having inappropriate sexual contact with three underage girls decades ago, People magazine reported on Wednesday.
"Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret. I have been working to atone for it ever since," Collins, 67 said in a statement released to the magazine.
The actor said he decided to address the issue following the release earlier this year of an audio tape made during a confidential marriage therapy session with his estranged wife, Faye Grant. The session was recorded without his consent and released by TMZ, the celebrity news website.
The actor's representative did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
In the statement, Collins said there were three victims from 1973 to 1994, and that he has not had an impulse "to act out in any such way in the last 20 years."
"The publication of the recording has resulted in assumptions and innuendos about what I did that go far beyond what actually occurred. As difficult as this is, I want people to know the truth," he added.
Collins said he apologised to one of the women 15 years later and that she was gracious. But he added that during his treatment he learned that being so direct could make things worse by opening old wounds.
"I have not approached the other two women, one of whom is now in her 50s and the other in her 30s," he said, adding that he has agonized about whether to make a direct apology to them.
Following the release of the tape, Collins was dropped from the upcoming Universal Pictures (CMCSA.O) comedy "Ted 2." The cable network UP TV, which hosts reruns of "7th Heaven," said it was removing the show from its schedule.
The Los Angeles Police Department said it has launched a review of a 2012 case against Collins to make sure nothing was missed at the time.
Collins, who is in divorce proceedings with Grant, has remained out of the public eye since the tape was released but is scheduled to talk about the cases in an upcoming television interview.
He played the father of seven in the "7th Heaven" TV series from 1996-2007.