Outrage over Priest - B'Klyn Diocese Blasted

By Dan Mangan
New York Post
August 20, 2004

The Diocese of Brooklyn was harshly criticized yesterday for keeping on the job an accused child-molesting priest who allegedly went on to rape a young altar boy.

"I always knew it was going to happen again," said Robert Lambert.

He and his brother, the Rev. Timothy Lambert, told the diocese in 1997 they had been molested as kids in Queens by the Rev. Joseph Byrns in the early 1970s, only to see the Catholic priest allowed to remain as a parish's pastor.

"They put every child in Brooklyn in harm's way," said Lambert, 48, singling out Bishop Thomas Daily for not taking action against Byrns in 1997, when he headed the diocese. "I think he should be accountable for this . . . He was the shepherd, and he never took care of his flock. He didn't protect little children, and that's sinful. He didn't care."

In Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday, Byrns, 61, pleaded not guilty to two felonies and 20 misdemeanors related to allegedly sodomizing and fondling the altar boy at St. Rose of Lima Church in Kensington. The alleged abuse began in 2000 when the child was age 11, and ended two years later.

The priest - whom the diocese has barred from working as a cleric since 2002 - faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 years if convicted.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said the boy first was molested after Byrns called him at home one day and asked him to come to the church to serve as an altar boy for a special Mass.

"The child went to the rectory to meet the priest, but there was no Mass," according to Hynes' office.

The DA said the abuse then occurred at the church about once every two months, and that Byrns used bribes of money and toys, as well as threats, to keep the boy quiet.

A lawyer for the now-15-year-old boy, who currently lives in Florida and who disclosed the abuse this summer, said it was "outrageous" that Byrns was not suspended right after the Lamberts accused him.

"What you're doing there is showing what I would consider a conscious disregard for the safety and well-being of the children that he's coming in contact with," said Vidian Mallard, who added that the family is reviewing its options regarding a potential lawsuit.

A spokesman for the diocese - which permanently suspended Byrns in June after an investigation found the Lamberts' claims were credible - could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But spokesman Frank DeRosa has said the priest was not suspended in 1997 because the diocese then was not sure who was telling the truth.


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