Priest: Found porn, lewd letter to boy in rectory
PHILADELPHIA - March 28, 2012 (WPVI) -- Several Roman Catholic priests have testified in a landmark clergy-abuse case, including one who said Wednesday that he found pornography and a lewd letter to a boy in the rectory.
The priests are prosecution witnesses in the trial of a longtime supervisor in the Philadelphia archdiocese, Monsignor William Lynn. The former secretary for clergy is charged with endangering children by allegedly helping the church cover up abuse complaints.
The Rev. Joseph Okonski told jurors Wednesday that he found a box of pornographic magazines and videos in another priest's bedroom in 1995.
Okonski said he informed his pastor, who did nothing. But he soon called an archdiocesan official after finding the sexually explicit letter to a seventh-grade boy, which purported to be from a classmate and asked if the boy wanted oral sex.
"You are soooo cute. I have been thinking about you for a long time. ... You're the cutest in our grade," the typed letter said.
The author said he fantasized about seeing the boy getting spanked by his father. The boy was told to write "Yes" on a bulletin board at the parish school if he wanted to engage in sex acts with his "secret lover."
The priest admitted writing the letter and soon left the parish, but the next witness said he landed at his rectory, where he worked with altar boys and heard confession.
Prosecutors want to make the point that dozens of abusive priests were, at best, transferred if they got in trouble, and left in jobs involving children.
The witnesses, on cross-examination, said the archbishop had the final say in priest assignments. Lynn sometimes made recommendations, but the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua or his successor, retired Cardinal Justin Rigali, made the decision, they said.
"Inevitably, any movement of priests is done by the archbishop," Okonski said.
The letter-writing priest was first transferred to another Philadelphia church for five years, and then to one in Levittown. The Levittown pastor testified Wednesday that Lynn's successor paid a visit after the pastor found X-rated movie rentals on the rectory's cable bill.
The pastor said he ultimately requested that the priest be removed, and get the help he needed.
Two scorching grand jury reports blasted Rigali and Bevilacqua for leaving pedophiles in parish jobs around children, where they had access to countless victims. The District Attorney's Office has been investigating the archdiocese for 10 years, since the national priest-abuse scandal broke in Boston.
But both current D.A. Seth Williams and his predecessor, Lynne Abraham, felt they could not successfully prosecute the cardinals or their top bishops.
Williams last year charged Lynn with felony child endangerment and conspiracy. In court, prosecutors have called the archdiocese an unindicted co-conspirator.
Four others were charged with sexually assaulting boys. The Rev. James Brennan is on trial with Lynn. Defrocked priest Edward Avery will serve 2-1/2 to five years after pleading guilty last week to sexual assault and conspiracy. And two others, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero, are set for trial later this year. They allegedly raped the same boy that Avery assaulted.
All but Avery have pleaded not guilty.
philadelphia, philadelphia archdiocese, local/state
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