Convicted Pa. Priest Remained Clergyman for Years
April 10, 2012
Jurors in a landmark church sex-abuse trial were presented with evidence Tuesday outlining the troubled clerical career of a priest who was convicted of child pornography charges yet remained in ministry for years despite similar and repeated complaints.
Prosecutors introduced decades of correspondence from mental health facilities, therapists and church officials regarding then-priest Edward DePaoli. The documents from the archdiocese's secret archives outlined how DePaoli, after being convicted in federal court of child pornography charges in 1986, went through psychological treatment, rounds of therapy, and a half dozen church assignments over two decades before he was defrocked in 2005.
DePaoli is not a defendant in the trial but prosecutors are using the testimony about him and others to build a case against Monsignor William Lynn, who was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 and entrusted with investigating complaints against priests. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly keeping pedophile priests in parish work around children to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal.
His lawyers contend Lynn tried to address the abuse allegations but was thwarted by his superiors including then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996. He and Lynn have both entered not guilty pleas.
The paper trail presented by prosecutors Tuesday began with DePaoli's 1986 conviction, when he was assistant pastor at Holy Martyrs parish in Oreland just outside Philadelphia. He was found to have magazines, films and videotapes of underage boys. He received a one-year suspended sentence and was sent to counseling.
Doctor reports in December 1986 warned that DePaoli "is likely to repeat his past behavior and to become progressively worse ... he could go beyond fantasy (regarding) his sexual fantasies towards children" and he was "in need of extensive psychological work." Instead, DePaoli was transferred out of the Philadelphia archdiocese to St. John Vianney Church in Colonia, N.J., for three years. In 1991, he returned to Philadelphia as associate pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church.
In 1992, priests reported DePaoli was again receiving pornography in the mail and said parishioners complained he made inappropriate comments at a children's Mass about imagining an 8th grade girl naked. The Rev. Robert Feeney testified that at a children's Bible play, DePaoli encouraged pre-teen girls to "act sexy, like they were trying to entice the prodigal son."
Feeney, who was assigned to Saint John the Baptist at the same time as DePaoli, also said DePaoli had disturbing pictures on the walls of his room featuring naked versions of biblical scenes as well as a crucifix with a nude Jesus.
"That was something the housekeeper had a very difficult time with," Feeney said.
After DePaoli's removal from Saint John the Baptist, he rejected the archdiocese's suggestion for in-patient hospitalization and lobbied to return to the parish. But Feeney said he and the other priests there were vehemently opposed. DePaoli was put on administrative leave and eventually went to St. Gabriel's rectory in the rural Montgomery County town of Stowe, near Pottstown.
A nun testified Monday that she was fired from her job as director of education at St. Gabriel's in 1996 after she reported DePaoli was again receiving sexually explicit magazines in the mail.
A 55-year-old woman testified Tuesday that she was fondled by DePaoli when she was a 12-year-old parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown. She said her family had recently immigrated and did not report it out of fear that they would not be believed. She said they met with Lynn and Bevilacqua in 2002 after learning the priest was still around children.
"My feeling was that they didn't really care," she said. "They were just going through the motions."
Although her name was stated in court, The Associated Press generally does not identify people alleging sexual abuse.