Suspended priest arrested over 1997 abuse allegation

Story highlights

  • Andrew McCormick "had a pattern of grooming altar boys," the DA says
  • A man alleges that he was abused in the church rectory
  • McCormick has been suspended since a 2011 grand jury report
A Roman Catholic priest in Philadelphia was arrested on allegations of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in 1997, the city's district attorney announced Friday.
Andrew McCormick, 56, has been 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 in connection with the alleged 1997 incident, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced Tuesday.
"He had a pattern of grooming altar boys and took several on trips to Poland," Williams said. "We suspect that there are other victims. I am very thankful the victim reported the crime directly to law enforcement."
McCormick befriended the former altar boy, now 25, while he was a pastor St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg, Pennsylvania, Williams said. The man alleged that the abuse occurred in the church rectory and involved one incident of "sexual contact."
After the incident happened, the defendant tried to ensure that the victim would not tell anyone about the abuse by telling the boy, "Masturbation is a sin, homosexuality is a sin, premarital sex is a sin and lying is a sin," Williams said.
"I applaud the courage of this young man," Williams said. "This victim was also concerned for other victims. Victims need to come forward."
In December of 2011 the man reported the alleged incident to the police department's Special Victims Unit after seeing news coverage of the sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said Police Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit.
"It's a theme that repeats itself. The victim hesitates because the individual is a person of authority," Darby said. "He was lectured by this individual (McCormick) and the victim personalized that."
A 2011 grand jury report led the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to criminally charge four Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care, while Monsignor William Lynn was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children.
Lynn, 61, was found guilty in June of one count of child endangerment, a third-degree felony, the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted on such a charge. He was given just under the maximum sentence he faced, which was three-and-a-half to seven years in prison.
Ordained in 1982, McCormick was one 21 priests placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in March of 2011 in response to the grand jury report. His most recent post was Sacred Heart Parish in Swedesburg, Pennsylvania, from 2004 to 2011.
As a result of the administrative leave, McCormick has not been permitted to exercise his public ministry, administer any of the sacraments, or present himself publicly as a priest, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
McCormick was arrested Thursday night after he was taken into custody outside of Philadelphia, where he was living with his parents. He was arraigned Friday afternoon and is being held on $150,000 bail.
The court took away his passport and he is not allowed contact with the victim, or with children or youth involved with the ministry, volunteer work or any charities, according to the district attorney's office.
McCormick is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on August 17.