Priest tells jury he is no child molester

By Mensah M. Dean
Philadelphia Daily News
March 5, 2014

The Rev. Andrew McCormick exits the Criminal Justice Center after a hearing, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Philadelphia. McCormick who is accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy inside a rectory bedroom in 1997 faces misdemeanor counts of endangerment and indecent assault.

HIS FACE turning red yesterday, the Rev. Andrew McCormick turned toward the nine women and three men who will decide his fate and blurted out: "I want the jury to know that I never molested [a former altar boy]. I want to convince you of that."

Moments later, when asked by defense lawyer William J. Brennan if he had ever molested any of the estimated 700 altar boys he came in contact with over 14 years at a Bridesburg church, McCormick, 57, was succinct: "Never," he said, bringing his lawyer's brief questioning to a sudden conclusion.

This morning, the Common Pleas jury will hear closing arguments from Brennan and Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp. The jurors will then begin to deliberate after receiving legal instructions from Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright.

McCormick, who rejected a guilty-plea offer from Kemp's office, is being tried for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, child endangerment, indecent exposure and related counts for allegedly attempting to force a 10-year-old altar boy to perform oral sex on him in 1997.

The alleged victim, now 26, testified last week that the incident took place in McCormick's rectory bedroom at St. John Cantius Church, where McCormick served as a priest from 1986 to 2000.

"I was in shock. I couldn't believe this was happening to me," the man told the jury. The Daily News is not publishing his name because of the graphic nature of the allegations.

Some details of the alleged assault mentioned by McCormick's accuser - including that the priest wore plaid boxer shorts and served Dr Pepper that night - were brought up yesterday by Brennan in an attempt to undermine the accuser's credibility.

McCormick's mother, Irene McCormick, 87, testified that for most of her son's life, she has purchased his underwear, and it's always been white briefs.

Mark Pasternak, 55, testified that as a full-time maintenance man at St. John Cantius from 1990 to 2002, he only saw "tighty whitey" briefs with McCormick's name on them in the laundry room.

Pasternak also testified that he often purchased soft drinks for the church priests, but never Dr Pepper.

Before McCormick took the witness stand yesterday, the defense started its case with four former altar boys who testified that McCormick never molested them or acted inappropriately in any way - even during church trips to Poland.

At times, McCormick, dressed in his black priest uniform and white clerical collar, nodded approvingly as the adult witnesses recalled going to movies and lunches with the priest.

"Everyone loves him," said Michael Paluch, who started working in the St. John Cantius rectory answering the telephone as a fourth-grader in the early 1990s.

Michael O'Brien said that at age 10, in 1987, he got friendship and encouragement from McCormick when he told the priest that he wanted to be a church bishop.

"I believe he wanted me to be a priest," said O'Brien, who visited Poland twice with McCormick and others.

Phillip Blazejewski testified that as a seventh- or eighth-grader during a trip to Poland with McCormick, he was allowed to drink beer, although he could not recall whether he got drunk.

When asked to describe his relationship with McCormick, Blazejewski said, "All positive."

McCormick, ordained in 1982, has been on administrative leave since March 2011, following allegations made about him in a grand-jury report. He was arrested in July 2012.



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