Northeast Times

Former priest at Bridesburg church charged with sexual assault of boy, 10

The Rev. An­drew Mc­Cormick, a former pas­tor of St. John Can­ti­us Church in Brides­burg, has been charged with the sexu­al as­sault of a young boy.

A former pas­tor of St. John Can­ti­us Church in Brides­burg has been charged with the 1997 sexu­al as­sault of a 10-year-old al­tar boy in the par­ish rect­ory.

Phil­adelphia po­lice ar­res­ted the Rev. An­drew Mc­Cormick, 56, in the Pott­stown area on Thursday, Ju­ly 26 after a sev­en-month in­vest­ig­a­tion by mem­bers of the Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit and the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Fam­ily Vi­ol­ence and Sexu­al As­sault Unit.

The vic­tim, who is now 25, re­por­ted the al­leged as­sault to po­lice in Decem­ber after re­l­at­ives per­suaded him to take his com­plaint to au­thor­it­ies rather than the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia.

Ac­cord­ing to Capt. John Darby of the SVU, the vic­tim re­por­ted that he was a stu­dent at the par­ish ele­ment­ary school and an al­tar boy when Mc­Cormick began mak­ing per­son­al “con­tacts” with him that “cul­min­ated in late fall or early Decem­ber 1997 where, in­side the rect­ory of St. John Can­ti­us, sexu­al con­tact was made.”

Darby de­clined to de­scribe the nature of the sexu­al con­tact. The charges against Mc­Cormick in­clude 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.

Des­pite the pas­sage of time between the in­cid­ent and the vic­tim’s com­plaint, the ar­rest comes well with­in the ap­plic­able stat­ute of lim­it­a­tions, said As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jim Car­penter.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams said that au­thor­it­ies are in­vest­ig­at­ing wheth­er Mc­Cormick ab­used oth­er chil­dren.

“This de­fend­ant had a pat­tern of groom­ing al­tar boys and tak­ing them on trips to Po­land,” Wil­li­ams said.

The DA did not elab­or­ate on what premise Mc­Cormick used for ar­ran­ging those over­seas trips.

In the sexu­al as­sault vic­tim’s case, Mc­Cormick al­legedly be­friended the vic­tim’s fam­ily and ma­nip­u­lated the vic­tim after the as­sault to pre­vent him from re­port­ing it.

“It’s a theme that re­peats it­self [In clergy ab­use cases],” Darby said. “The vic­tim hes­it­ates be­cause [Mc­Cormick] is a per­son of au­thor­ity who ac­quires the con­fid­ence of the fam­ily and the com­munity.  [The vic­tim] is put in a po­s­i­tion where he feels [he did] something wrong.”

Mc­Cormick al­legedly preached to the vic­tim, ‘“Mas­turb­a­tion is a sin; ho­mo­sexu­al­ity is a sin; pre-mar­it­al sex is a sin and ly­ing is a sin,”’ Wil­li­ams said.

The vic­tim chose to come for­ward after see­ing news me­dia cov­er­age of sexu­al ab­use cases in­volving Penn State Uni­versity and the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia, ac­cord­ing to Wil­li­ams. He also ex­pressed an in­terest in ex­pos­ing Mc­Cormick for the be­ne­fit of oth­er po­ten­tial ab­use vic­tims, Darby said.

Mc­Cormick’s ar­rest came two days after a judge sen­tenced an­oth­er former arch­dioces­an priest, Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, to serve three to six years in pris­on for shield­ing child-mo­lest­ing priests from crim­in­al pro­sec­u­tion dur­ing his ten­ure as the arch­diocese’s sec­ret­ary for clergy.

Au­thor­it­ies have not sug­ges­ted any dir­ect con­nec­tion between Mc­Cormick’s cler­ic­al as­sign­ments and Lynn.

Mc­Cormick was or­dained in 1982 and served at St. John Can­ti­us from 1986 to 2000. He served at St. Adal­bert in Port Rich­mond from 1982 to 1986; at St. Bede the Ven­er­able in Hol­land, Bucks County, from 2000 to 2004; and at Sac­red Heart in Swedes­burg, Mont­gomery County, from 2004 to 2011.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­li­ams, un­re­lated al­leg­a­tions of mis­con­duct against Mc­Cormick were dis­closed in the grand jury re­port in­volving clergy ab­use re­leased by the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Feb­ru­ary 2011. As a res­ult of the grand jury find­ings, the arch­diocese placed Mc­Cormick on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave in March 2011. Since that time, he has been pro­hib­ited from ex­er­cising pub­lic min­istry, ad­min­is­ter­ing sac­ra­ments or present­ing him­self pub­licly as a priest.

The 1997 in­cid­ent in­volving the 10-year-old vic­tim was not men­tioned in the grand jury re­port.

“This al­leg­a­tion came sub­sequent to [the grand jury re­port],” Car­penter said.

The pro­sec­utors did not de­tail the pri­or al­leg­a­tions against Mc­Cormick, who has most re­cently been liv­ing with his par­ents, Wil­li­ams said.

Upon learn­ing the news of Mc­Cormick’s ar­rest, sev­er­al loc­al alumni of St. John Can­ti­us school con­tac­ted by Star de­clined to com­ment.

However, Susan Maria Hoag­land, 28, from the class of 1998, who worked as a vo­lun­teer un­der Mc­Cormick in the rect­ory, said it may be too soon to pass judg­ment.

“All three of my broth­ers were al­tar boys, I was in the Chil­dren of Mary So­ci­ety. Our fam­ily vo­lun­teered quite a bit,” she wrote in an email to Star.

“Fath­er Andy over­saw a lot of events. On fre­quent oc­ca­sions I was in the rect­ory stuff­ing en­vel­opes or do­ing oth­er vo­lun­teer tasks. Fath­er Andy was al­ways good for ad­vice and guid­ance and took care of his al­tar boys by passing on dis­coun­ted and free Phantoms tick­ets, do­ing an­nu­al trips, et cet­era. The ac­cus­a­tions are sad­den­ing, and I nev­er say nev­er, but I am sure I am not the only one who finds these al­leg­a­tions hard to [be­lieve],” Hoag­land wrote.

The former stu­dent, who now lives in Ohio, was asked if there were ever any hints or ru­mors that im­prop­er activ­it­ies might have oc­coured while she was a stu­dent there, Hoag­land said Mc­Cormick’s ar­rest comes as a com­plete sur­prise.

“There were nev­er any ru­mors that I heard. Not a single one…I have a very hard time be­liev­ing that these charges are true,” she said.

Mc­Cormick was re­leased from po­lice cus­tody Fri­day on $150,000 bail. A pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing is sched­uled for Au­gust 16.

Au­thor­it­ies ad­vise vic­tims of sexu­al as­sault to call the po­lice’s Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit at 215-685-3251 or the DA’s Fam­ily Vi­ol­ence and Sexu­al As­sault Unit at 215-686-8080. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

Star re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man con­trib­uted to this art­icle.

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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