Philly Man Describes Being Passed Around By Priests
A young man told a jury in a criminal priest-abuse case Wednesday that he was sexually assaulted as an altar boy by two Philadelphia priests and that he soon turned to drugs for relief.
The witness, a policeman’s son, said he started smoking marijuana the summer he turned 11 to deal with the abuse, and has since tried drug treatment 23 times to battle addictions to heroin, painkillers and other drugs.
The 23-year-old testified at the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, a former secretary for clergy at the Philadelphia archdiocese who is charged with child endangerment for helping keep accused priests in ministry.
The witness told jurors that parish priest Edward Avery twice raped him after Mass in 1999, when he was a 10-year-old altar boy.
Jurors weren’t told that Avery, Lynn’s former co-defendant, has pleaded guilty to the crime. And defense lawyers chose not to cross-examine the accuser, despite vigorous pretrial attacks on his account. The judge had said she might allow Avery’s plea to be disclosed if they challenged the man’s credibility.
Nor did the jury hear the witness say he had also been raped by his fifth-grade teacher from the parish school, as he alleged in his 2010 grand jury testimony.
One juror fought back tears as the witness described closed-door "sessions" with Avery.
The young man - who has brooding eyes, a buzz cut and closely-cropped facial hair - came to court in a dark suit and tie. Prosecutors earlier showed school photographs of him as a sunny, slightly-built boy in a parochial school uniform and as an altar boy, sporting a floor-length white cassock and gold cross.
The witness said Avery put on church music and made him do a striptease in a small anteroom inside St. Jerome’s Church in northeast Philadelphia in 1999, then engaged in mutual oral sex and masturbation. He said he once had to use his shirt to wipe the priest’s semen off of him before walking home.
He said he never told anyone until group therapy at a drug treatment program years later.
"I thought I did something wrong - and it’s a priest," he testified. "I didn’t think anyone would believe me."
He said his 14-year-old brother - who did not know about the alleged abuse - introduced him to marijuana and alcohol at a party that summer. He got high nearly every day for 10 years, he said.
He contacted the archdiocese in 2009. The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they were sexually abused.
Earlier Wednesday, a 49-year-old doctor testified that Avery fondled him in bed when he was 15 and 18. The first time, he was drunk after helping the priest work as a DJ at a city nightclub. The second time, he was sober. They were sharing a bedroom on a ski trip while Avery’s brother had the other bedroom. Both times, he pretended to be asleep, and never told anyone.
"I felt betrayed," he said. "I really admired this guy. I hero-worshipped him."
He told the archdiocese about the abuse in 1992, when he was 28. He said he wasn’t seeking money or publicity; he just wanted to know it wouldn’t happen again.
"Will the diocese vouch for the safety of its children? For my peace of mind, I need to know," the doctor wrote in his March 1992 letter. About five years later, he wrote again, still trying to learn what had become of the priest. Avery was back at work after a year of treatment, although the witness wasn’t told that.
On cross-examination, the North Carolina doctor acknowledged that Lynn responded to his letter after becoming secretary for clergy in mid-1992 and helped arrange a 1993 confrontation with Avery at a church-run treatment center. Lynn also wrote him to explain in January 1993 that Lynn’s mother had been ill and died, causing him to fall behind at work.
The hundreds of church documents read in court this month show Lynn to be a fastidious correspondent and record keeper. The recovered memos show him documenting when he missed someone’s call, what time he called the person back, what was said and what recommendations he made to supervisors, including Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Other memos record meetings between Bevilacqua, Lynn and the cardinal’s handful of other top aides.
Prosecutors have shown jurors more than 1,700 exhibits - mostly internal church memos, letters and reports - in the trial’s first five weeks. The church’s byzantine record-keeping helped them build their case against Lynn, and issue two damning grand jury reports on predator-priests since 2005.
But Lynn’s lawyers hope the records will also show the steps he took to address the festering child sex-abuse problem. The question for jurors will be, did he do enough?
Avery, 69, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the St. Jerome’s boy days before trial and is serving a 2 1/2- to five-year term.
His victim accepted hugs of relief from family members after his hour-long testimony Wednesday. But he is not finished yet.
He will have to testify when the other priest and teacher charged with assaulting him go on trial. The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero are being tried separately because neither was an archdiocesan priest under Lynn’s control.