Priest Pleads Guilty in Child-Pornography Case

By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 26, 2004

In a move that the federal judge warned could put him in prison for three years, a veteran Philadelphia Roman Catholic priest yesterday pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

"I absolutely know what I am doing," the Rev. Matthew J. Kornacki told U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick, adding, "It's the only way I can begin to make things right."

Surrick permitted Kornacki to remain free on $20,000 unsecured bond, pending sentencing Nov. 17. Since he was confronted by agents in July 2003 at his residence at the archdiocese's St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Wynnewood, Kornacki has lived at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a church-run facility for priests undergoing psychological counseling.

In addition to pleading guilty, Kornacki agreed to forfeit his seized laptop computer, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenya Mann said contained 150 illegal images of children engaged in sexual acts.

Kornacki, 57, served in five city and four suburban parishes over 31 years; he was removed from active ministry after his interview by New York City detectives working in a Secret Service child-pornography task force.

At the time, Kornacki was assistant director of the seminary's department of continuing formation for diocesan priests and director of its spiritual-year programs.

Prosecutors said that the New York task force began its probe of Internet child-pornography trafficking in August 2001, and that agents were led to Kornacki after they subpoenaed a list of people who bought computer disks from a Web site offering child pornography.

After yesterday's hearing, defense attorney Francis Recchuiti said he would argue for a reduced sentence, adding that Kornacki enabled his prosecution by speaking with the detectives without consulting a lawyer.

Recchuiti said Kornacki only possessed the illegal images, and said he believed the priest was subjected to heightened public scrutiny because of the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church.

"He's going to be at [the St. John Vianney Center] the rest of his life," Recchuiti added. "That's a life sentence. And he's done a lot of good things for the church."

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658.