Priest Targeted Then Assaulted Boy, 10
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
February 27, 2014
The sex assault trial of the Rev. Andrew McCormick opened Thursday with the prosecutor saying the evidence will show that the Catholic priest targeted, groomed and assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy in his room in the rectory of a Northeast Philadelphia parish.
"No 41-year-old man has the right to touch a child," Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp told the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury in her opening statement.
Kemp said the alleged victim will testify about how McCormick asked him to become an altar boy in 1997 at St. John Cantius parish in Bridesburg.
"In a strong, hard-core Catholic neighborhood, this was a huge honor," Kemp said.
Kemp, however, said McCormick targeted the 10-year-old after the boy's mother asked for his help because she thought her son was gay and she and her husband had separated.
"They were thrilled, they were ecstatic," Kemp said of the boy's parents after the priest took him under his wing.
The boy changed after December 1997, when the alleged assault took place. Kemp said he became more troubled, wanted to avoid church and, within a year, attempted suicide.
Defense attorney William J. Brennan Jr. urged jurors to keep open minds and said the case against McCormick is the only sexual allegation made against him in more than 30-years as a priest.
Brennan told the jury the verdict would depend on whether they can rely on the 16-year-old memory of the alleged victim after years of drug abuse and emotional turmoil.
Brennan also argued that the jury must ignore "the elephant in the room" - news coverage of the 2012 landmark Catholic church sex-abuse trial in Philadelphia.
McCormick, now 57, was pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Bridgeport, Montgomery County, in March 2011 when church officials suspended him and 25 priests for possible inappropriate conduct with children.
That suspension, however, had nothing to do with the alleged victim in the trial.
McCormick was arrested by the District Attorney's office on July 26, 2012, after the alleged victim, now 26, came forward and said he was assaulted. Prosecutors said the alleged victim - who was unknown to Philadelphia church officials - was encouraged to press charges by news coverage of the church and Penn State sex-abuse scandals.
Ordained in 1982, McCormick had been pastor at Sacred Heart six years when he was suspended. He had previously served at St. Adalbert's in Northeast Philadelphia and St. Bede the Venerable in Holland, Bucks County.