Priest charged after accuser, prompted by Penn State case, emerges

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2012 6:23 PM
Priest charged after accuser, prompted by Penn State case, emerges

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest has been charged with the 1997 sexual assault of an altar boy, who was emboldened to come forward by the high-profile prosecutions of Monsignor William Lynn and former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, authorities said on Friday.

The arrest of suspended priest Andrew McCormick, 56, who a prosecutor said "had a pattern of grooming altar boys," capped a tumultuous week for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the sixth largest in the nation with 1.5 million members.

Days earlier, Lynn, the most senior clergyman convicted in the U.S. church pedophilia scandal, was sentenced to up to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia. Prosecutors also said they would retry a priest who went to trial with Lynn but whose attempted rape case ended in a mistrial.

McCormick's accuser, now a 25-year-old man, told police in December he had been abused in the church rectory as a 10-year-old boy.

"News coverage of things going on out there, Penn State, and investigations involving other priests in this area," prompted him to come forward, Philadelphia Police Captain John Darby, head of the department's Special Victims Unit, told a news conference.

McCormick was charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, corrupting the morals of a minor, indecent assault and indecent exposure, said District Attorney Seth Williams.

Authorities said those crimes occurred at St. John Cantius church in the city's Bridesburg section in 1997.

Williams said he believed there were other victims in the case.

"Mr. McCormick had a pattern of grooming altar boys," Williams said.

"I applaud the courage of this young man," he said. "With every new sexual assault arrest and conviction like Monsignor Lynn, we hope that more victims will have the courage to come forward."

McCormick was arrested in suburban Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where his parents live.

The archdiocese said McCormick was one of several priests placed on administrative leave in March 2011 after a grand jury report on child sex abuse by priests and others tied to the archdiocese.

"Since that time Father McCormick has not been permitted to exercise his public ministry, administer any of the sacraments, or present himself publicly as a priest," the archdiocese said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney)