Priest Used God As Lure - Teen

By John Marzulli
New York Daily News
January 13, 2006

A priest charged with sexually abusing an altar boy in a Brooklyn church rectory convinced the youngster that the molestation would "bring him closer to God," the teen testified yesterday.

The lawyer for the Rev. Joseph Byrns aggressively questioned the accuser, who is now 17, on why he returned to the rectory after the initial incident in March 2000.

"Maybe I didn't think about it. I was very gullible," the youth said softly.

Lawyer Patrick Bruno pressed him. "Did you believe having a 60-year-old guy touch the most-private parts would 'bring you closer to God?'" he asked.

"Yes, because I believed him," the teen replied.

His hands clasped in front of him on the defense table, Byrns showed no reaction to the disturbing testimony in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

The teen said Byrns would sometimes lure him to St. Rose of Lima Church in Parkville with the ruse that he needed him to serve at a wedding ceremony on short notice. The alleged sexual abuse took place in the rectory kitchen.

He said Byrns touched him intimately "almost every time" he was summoned alone into the rectory, and on two occasions the attacks went much further.

The teen's mother also testified about a shocking discovery she made two weeks before Easter 2002. Her son had returned from church and left stained clothes in a pile on the floor.

"I knew what it was, but I didn't want to believe what it was," she said.

She and her husband questioned their son, but he refused to say what had happened. Two years later, after the family moved to Florida, the teen revealed the alleged abuse to his probation officer.

"My son was used and abused senselessly," she said.

In 1997, Byrns was accused by two brothers, Timothy and Robert Lambert, of molesting them at St. Anastasia's parish in Queens more than two decades ago. No charges were filed but prosecutors found the allegations credible. Timothy Lambert is now a Catholic priest.

Byrns, who is suspended from his duties, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.


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