Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Father Andy" Faces His Accuser

St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg
By Ralph Cipriano

His troubles with "Father Andy" began when his mother confided to the priest that her son might be gay.

The alleged victim, now 26, testified in court today that when he was a 10-year-old altar boy, the priest brought him to his room in a church rectory, and sexually assaulted him.

Then, after the alleged attack, the victim testified the priest would repeatedly tell him on the playground that homosexuality was a sin, and so was masturbation.

How did that make him feel, the prosecutor asked?

"Horrible," the young man testified. "As a homosexual, if it's a sin, it means I'm going to hell."

To the alleged victim, the priest's words meant that what happened in the rectory must have been the altar boy's fault.

"I thought that was supposed to happen to me because of what I am," the tearful man told the jury.

In Courtroom 1102 in the Criminal Justice Center today, Father Andrew McCormick stood to hear the court clerk read the charges against him.

The 57-year-old priest of 30 years is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, sexual assault of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

When asked how he pleaded, the priest responded by saying "Not Guilty" five times in a loud, clear voice.

The victim in the case is a 26-year-old business manager for a large New York cosmetics firm. He's a slender man with blonde highlights who probably gets carded at every bar he walks into.

The alleged victim testified that his relationship with "Father Andy" began when he became an altar boy in the third grade at St. John Cantius Church, a Polish parish in the Bridesburg section of the city.

"He asked me if I wanted to be an altar boy," the alleged victim testified about Father Andy.  At first, it was great. The altar boy got out of class to serve at Mass. He got paid to do funerals. Father Andy treated him to burgers and fries at McDonald's. He also got free soda and cookies at the rectory.

"It was fun," the alleged victim testified. "I thought it was great. I thought he [Father Andy] was my friend."

At the time, the altar boy had a troubled home life. He had to repeat the third grade. His parents were having problems that eventually would lead to a divorce. And the altar boy already knew what his mother suspected was true, that he was gay.

Sadly, Father Andy also knew he was gay, the alleged victim testified.

Father Andy showered the altar boy with attention and treats. He would meet him while the boy was walking to school. He would rub the boy's back when they were together in the sacristy.

The altar boy felt like Father Andy was taking "me under his wing," the alleged victim testified.

Then, sometime during the 1997-98 school year, Father Andy asked the altar boy to serve at an evening Mass. After Mass, the priest took the boy over to the rectory, where the altar boy "had two cookies and a Dr. Pepper."

The priest asked the altar boy if he wanted to see his room. "A priest's house," the alleged victim testified. He said he thought visiting a priest's house would be "very cool."

But according to the alleged victim, when they entered the priest's room, Father Andy "started fumbling with" a door that led to a common meeting room inside the rectory. The altar boy thought the priest was locking that door.

As soon as the door was closed, the alleged victim testified, Father Andy attacked.

"He started undressing himself and he started undressing me," the alleged victim told the jury. "He started touching my butt, my genitals."

"I was just in shock," the man testified. He recalled hearing the priest's "heavy breathing." The alleged victim said he found himself staring at the priest's cassock.

"He had a coat with 32 buttons," the alleged victim testified. He counted every one. He said he watched as the priest took off his shirt and pants. The priest had "blue plaid boxers on" under his pants. He took his shoes off but left his sox on.

In contrast to the slender priest at the defense table, the alleged victim testified that Father Andy "was a lot bigger" 17 years ago, when the attack allegedly happened.

"He grabbed my arm and had me touch his genitals," the alleged victim testified. "His stomach was pressing against" the altar boy's face.

"I laid back on the bed. He puled his penis out."

The priest tried "forcing his penis into my mouth," the alleged victim testified. He told the jury he kept his teeth clenched.   "I put my head to the side and said, 'No.'" But the priest tried to penetrate him orally again, the alleged victim said. He told the jury he continued to resist.

"He [Father Andy] told me to get out," the alleged victim told the jury. "I started putting on my clothes real quick."

Over at the defense table, Father McCormick was turning red.

On the witness stand, the victim testified that after the attack, he went downstairs and tried to call his mother three times on the rectory phone. When he got no answer, he walked home, a trip that took about 15 minutes.

Why didn't he tell anybody that night what had happened, asked Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp.

"I was scared," the alleged victim said. "It was a secret."

At 11, the victim told the prosecutor he repeatedly tried to commit suicide.

"I remember trying to hang myself a lot," the alleged victim said. "Almost every week ... I didn't want to live any more ... Everything I thought was wrong."

At 11, he was watching a TV show about molestation with his cousin.

"That has happened to me," the alleged victim said he told his cousin.

His next admission came when he was a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School on a retreat. The alleged victim said he told a group of students, and a teacher, "I've been molested by somebody."

In 2011, the alleged victim heard in the media that Father Andy was one of 26 priests suspended by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for possible inappropriate contact with minors.

That night, the alleged victim told the jury, he had a nightmare that Father Andy was attacking another boy. In the nightmare, "He [Father Andy] was doing this to my five-year-old nephew and I couldn't do anything about it," the alleged victim testified.

So the alleged victim told his father that the priest had abused him. Then he told his grandfather, a retired police detective, who took a statement, and turned it over to the police.

When police arrested Father Andy, he was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Bridgeport, Montgomery County. Father Andy, who is on administrative leave, is no longer allowed to say Mass publicly or perform any other priestly duties.

About nine of Father Andy's former parishioners were in the courtroom today to support the priest. They sat on the left side of the courtroom, behind the defense table. On the other side of the courtroom, the alleged victim's family and friends were there to support him.

When court was over today, clerks escorted each group of partisans out through separate exits.

The alleged victim had a red face, and was dabbing his eyes with tissues when Assistant District Attorney Kemp asked, "Why are you doing this?" meaning why did this young man come to court to tell his story.

"So this does not happen to another little boy," the alleged victim responded.

He told the prosecutor he has not filed any civil lawsuit against the archdiocese.

On cross-examination, defense lawyer Richard J. Fuschino tried to point out inconsistencies in the alleged victim's testimony.

 At that evening Mass you served with Father Andy, did you work alone or was there another altar boy assigned to that Mass, Fuschino asked.

"I'm 100 percent sure it was alone," the alleged victim testified.

But at a preliminary hearing last year, Fuschino said, you testified you didn't recall for sure whether you were working alone as an altar boy that night. "Did your memory get better" in the last year, Fuschino asked.

"Objection, argumentative," Assistant District Attorney Kemp said.

"Sustained," said Judge Gwendolyn Bright.

Why didn't you tell anybody about the attack, the defense lawyer wanted to know.

"It was a secret," the alleged victim testified.

You use that word secret a lot, Fuschino said. When you were 11 years old, and told your cousin you had been molested, did you tell her to keep it a secret?

Yes, the alleged victim responded.

You say you're not suing the archdiocese for money, the defense lawyer asked. But didn't you go see a lawyer to check out a possible civil lawsuit?

"I went to see a lawyer," the alleged victim conceded. But it was for his own protection. He did not file any civil lawsuit.

The alleged victim said he talked to the lawyer for his own protection. He is not seeking money from the archdiocese, he insisted.

"I have a full-time job," the alleged victim testified. "I don't need money. I have a very successful career."


  1. This alleged victim is a liar. Fr. Andy served at St. John Cantius for 14 years with a sterling record until this troubled man came forward. God bless our priests who so generously serve us, whom we take for granted and who are so maligned and helpless in the face of malicious accusers who seek a payout.

    1. You need to educate yourself with what has been going on, or at least listen and discern in seeking the truth. Those who continue to not believe what has been done to children within the RCC are part of why it continues to this day around the world and in our own backyard. Pray that all molesters are removed and the RCC can live what it proclaims. May the truth always triumph.

    2. You presume I know very little about abuse. I am a counsellor who has counseled a number of victims of sexual abuse. I also happen to know this priest and don't believe him capable of what he has been accused of. Do I believe that children in the past were abused by clergy? Certainly. However, the church has made great strides in protecting children. Fr. Andy is innocent of these charges and is himself a victim of the poor choices made by the bishops of past generations who have made it possible for priests like Fr Andy to be mistreated by the diocese which opens them to false charges

    3. YOU ARE A FAKE. Maybe that explains why you first go by anonymous. YOU know nothing of sexual abuse. Not one counselor would make the saying "you don't believe him capable of what he has been accused of."

      Go somewhere else and pretend to be someone your not.

  2. Hey, another kid with a cop in the family ... sound familiar?

  3. I think these liars get off with inventing these crock of s*** stories. What a waste of time. What a despicable waste of a good priest's career.

  4. "He had a coat with 32 buttons......"

    Now here's a kid in a very 'odd' situation who takes the time to count buttons on a 'coat' - 32 of them, in fact.

    What kind of a coat has 32 buttons? The only priestly garment with a large number of buttons that comes to mind is the black cassock. But, cassocks haven't been worn for a long time now.

    What's up with this??

  5. Interesting conjectures the victim brings about a priest with a coat of 32 buttons. Did he count them all and commit them to memory or was he trying to convey a salacious image of a man so eager for a possible sexual outcome that he was stripping himself out of a coat with 32 buttons? To its credit, Philly com has not allowed commenting to happen due to the salacious nature of this.

    What I find perplexing about this case is why is this case in the media if a judge ordered a gag order on all participants to keep them from commenting to media personalities? A gag order should be in place on all happenstances that happen during the trial and the only thing released is the verdict once a jury agrees on one. After all, most trials, civil and criminal that happen in Philadelphia are rarely covered by the Inky with the exception of trials involving priests, famous people, mob personalities.

    This trial will probably end in two or three days. Monday will probably be postponed due to ice storm expected to happen. I predict a verdict by Wed late afternoon or Thursday.

  6. If I was to write a book or any other victim of clergy would write a book you would read exactly what you have read here. The grooming. A word that should be defined as the time between a pedophile sets his sights on his prey until the time of attack.

    I have heard time and time again how people like this Fr. Andy work. They are not stupid by any means. They look for that weakness neither you or I would be able to see. They take advantage of the weakness and only when they feel its time will they attack. Its a sick gift they have. Being able to lead the cow to his own slaughter, in this case it was a calf.

    There seems to be some concern about these 32 buttons. I invite any of you to just once pick up a book and learn about sexual abuse. It does not even have to deal with clergy abuse. You would then understand the counting of the 32 buttons is a way this child may have tried to remove himself from his attack. If this victim told me there was so many ceiling tiles or so many prints on a wall its a victim trying to place themselves mentally away from the attack.

    Its not the 32 buttons the defense should concern themselves about. Its if the victim can pick out from an old catalogue the type of clothing from that time that Fr. Andy may have worn and it has 32 buttons.

    James - I have a feeling if you told Ralph Cipriano after sitting in court all day he was unable to report about it. I don't think he would take that to kindly, he has been down that road before. Besides Ralph, the Daily News are not participants in the case. Don't hold me to what I am about to say because I only glanced at the article. But I think George Anatasia recently went through the same thing. He was put on either the list for the defense or prosecution which barred him from reporting about the case. He did get removed from that list. Ask Ralph though he would know more about then me.

  7. James -

    Cassocks have close to 30 buttons, but I doubt that any priests have worn cassocks in the last 25 or 30 years, even under their vestments at Mass. They're a relic of the past - a proven tripping hazard, especially on stairs.

    Furthermore, one would be hard pressed to confuse a cassock (which resembles a black, ankle length dress) with a coat, don't you think?

    Anyone wearing a cassock would not have to unbutton at 30 some buttons to remove it. All one has to do is to open the top 10 or so and then step out of it.

    This part of the alleged victim's story is very hard to believe.

  8. We don't have Judges Ceisler and Sarmina as the bench judge. That is a plus. It will only get more interesting as the trial goes on. How willt he judge rule if defense makes a motion to strike down a charge from the list of the charges Father Andy is facing. Both Sarmina and Ceisler refused to dismiss charges. This will only get interesting.

  9. The teacher, if actually told, would have been required by law to report it. Why was the teacher not called as a witness? Interesting.


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