Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Tighty Whitie Defense

By Ralph Cipriano

It's the tighty-whitie defense.

When the prosecution presented its case against "Father Andy" McCormick, the alleged victim testified that the priest wore "blue plaid boxers" under his black cassock. The alleged victim, now 26, said he got a good look at those boxers 17 years ago in 1997. That's when Father Andy allegedly attacked the victim, then a 10-year-old altar boy, in the priest's bedroom in the rectory at St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg.  

Today, the defense called two witnesses who testified that Father Andy always wore white briefs.

First, Father Andy's 87-year-old mother told the jury that she's been buying the priest's underwear for decades, and she always bought white briefs.

Then the longtime maintenance man at the church, Mark Pasternak, testified that for years he had seen the woman who did the priests' laundry lay out all their clean underwear in piles on a table in the basement of the rectory. Each pair of underwear had a priest's name tag on it. "It was just lined up there," Pasternak said of the piles of priests' underwear. There were no boxer shorts on that table. Pasternak told the jury that Father Andy, as well as the other two priests living and working at St. John Cantius, all wore "tighty-whities."

But on a day when Father Andy testified in his own defense, he was upstaged by what longtime maintenance man Pasternak had to say out in the hallway to reporters. The jury didn't hear a word of it.

"I sent a priest to jail," Pasternak told reporters. So he wouldn't hesitate to send Father Andy to jail, Pasternak said, if he knew the priest was guilty.

"If a kid's molested, I don't care who you are, you're going to jail," Pasternak said.

There's a reason why Pasternak looked familiar today to reporters covering Father Andy's trial. The 55-year-old longtime maintenance man at St. John Cantius was Juror No. 5 in the 13-week trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Pasternak was one of 12 jurors who convicted Lynn on June 22, 2012 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn, Pasternak said, "didn't do enough to supervise that priest," referring to Father Edward V. Avery. In the Lynn case, it was former priest Avery who pleaded guilty on the eve of trial to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with the victim in that case, another former 10-year-old altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe."

At the Lynn trial, the judge allowed in as supplemental evidence 21 previous cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born.

"I saw the monsters," Pasternak said of his 13 weeks of hearing testimony about the worst sexually abusive priests in the history of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "I saw what they did."

As he testified in court today, Pasternak was the full time maintenance man at St. John Cantius for 12 years. His son, now 28, was an altar boy under Father Andy's care. Pasternak was at the church every day for 12 years. He saw Father Andy interact with lots of boys, including his son, and his son's friends.

"It's not there," Pasternak told reporters about the evidence against Father Andy. Pasternak said he talked to his son about the priest, and whether Father Andy had ever done anything over the years to raise suspicions about being a molester.

"No way," was his son's response, Pasternak said. His son's friends said the same thing, including one who was a state trooper.

When he was on the witness stand, Pasternak testified that he was the church's full-time maintenance man from 1990 to 2002, where his tenure coincided with Father Andy's. After he got another job, Pasternak stayed working at the church as a part-time maintenance man until 2009. For the last five years, he continued to work part-time at the church for free, doing the same job he used to get paid for.

Pasternak testified that besides doing electrical work, plumbing, snow plowing and maintenance at the church, he also bought supplies in bulk, including soda.

The alleged victim testified that prior to being attacked by Father Andy in the priest's bedroom, the victim had helped himself to treats at the rectory that included "two cookies and a Dr. Pepper."

Pasternak testified that for years, based on the tastes of the three priests who lived and worked at St. John Cantius, he bought Coke, Pepsi and Stewart's Root Beer. But he never bought Dr. Pepper.

The other "tighty whitie" defense witness was Irene McCormick, Father Andy's 87-year-old mother, who testified that she bought "all his [the priest's] underwear most of his life."

Mrs. McCormick told the jury she bought her son underwear on the same day every year, Jan. 7th, the date of the Russian Christmas.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp got Mrs. McCormick to tell her that when the alleged attack took place, her son, now 57, was in his 40s. Kemp asked Mrs. McCormick if a man in his 40s might have bought some of his own clothes, including, presumably, some underwear.

Yes, Mrs. McCormick testified.

It was after lunch when Father Andy stood in the courtroom, while the jury was in the back room, and told the judge he wanted to take the witness stand in his own defense.

"I wish to testify," the priest told Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright. He admitted to being nervous, but insisted the decision to take the stand was his.

The direct testimony of the priest took only a few minutes.

Defense Attorney William J. Brennan asked the priest if he had heard the victim's testimony about how Father Andy had allegedly attacked him and molested him in the rectory. Is that true, Brennan asked.

"I never molested" the alleged victim, the priest testified. The priest started to talk about how the victim's accusations had "certainly been a devastation to me," but the prosecutor objected, and the judge sustained the objection.

Did you ever sexually abuse anybody, Brennan asked.

"Never," the priest said.

"That's all I have," Brennan said.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kemp asked Father Andy if he'd heard all the details of the alleged attack, as testified to by the victim.

"Yes I did," the priest said. "I didn't do that to him."

Kemp asked about the testimony of Adam Visconto, another altar boy who testified that Father Andy had showered him with unwanted attention. Even though Visconto's mother told you to stay away from her son, the prosecutor said, didn't you send him a card and a present, a statute of the Blessed Virgin?

"At that time they stopped talking to me," the priest told the jury about Adam Visconto and his mother. "I was never told to stay away from him."

The priest said he sent Adam Visconto a card and a present because "I thought he was angry at me."

Weren't you reprimanded by the archdiocese twice for having children in your room, the prosecutor asked.

"It was not a policy" at the time to keep children out of a priest's living quarters, the priest told the prosecutor.

The priest tried to explain that one of those reprimands was for a boy who was helping him move. But he did have to admit that yes, he was twice reprimanded by the archdiocese for having children in his room.

The prosecutor questioned the priest about who paid for the trips he took to Poland with several altar boys. Those trips were "privately funded by you," the prosecutor asked.

Yes, the priest said.

During a courtroom break, when the judge was conferring in chambers with lawyers in the case, a red-faced Father Andy drained his water cup, and stared straight ahead, with his arms folded. "Explain yourself," the angry looking priest had told the prosecutor before the break, when one of her questions didn't make sense to him.

When court resumed, defense lawyer Brennan asked Father Andy how many altar boys he had supervised during his 14 years at St. John Cantius. About 50 a year, the priest estimated. That means, Brennan said, that you supervised about "700 altar boys" over 14 years.

Did any of these other altar boys ever accuse you of sexually abusing them, Brennan asked.

"None whatsoever," the priest replied.

When it was her turn, the prosecutor asked Father Andy if he paid more attention to just a few altar boys when he pulled them out of class to serve at funerals.

The priest responded that he typically called out of class the oldest altar boys, those in the seventh and eighth grades. The prosecutor said she didn't have any questions. After just 15 minutes on the witness stand, Father Andy sat down.

On Ash Wednesday in court, four former altar boys showed up to testify in Father Andy's defense. The former altar boys said the priest was a stand-up guy who took them to restaurants and movies, and even on trips to Poland, but he never touched them inappropriately. Meanwhile, a dozen of Father Andy's supporters with ashen crosses on their foreheads sat behind the defense table.

Philip Blazejeweski told the jury about his trip to Poland with Father Andy.

Blazejewski was the former altar boy who went on the trip to Poland with Father Andy, after Adam Visconto's mother told the priest that her son wasn't going.

Blazejewski, who was an altar boy from 4th to 8th grade under Father Andy, said the priest never touched him.

Did he ever do anything that made you feel uncomfortable, defense attorney Brennan asked.

No, Blazejewski said.

Blazejewski testified that he gave an interview to the archdiocese in 2004, and that's why he didn't respond to a request for an interview from the district attorney's office.

"I already said it once," said Blazejewski, who had to be subpoenaed by the defense to tell his story.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kemp asked Blazejewksi if it was true that his mother, who sat in on his 2004 interview with the archdiocese, was an "avid supporter of the defendant."

"Correct," Blazejewski said.

Michael O'Brien was another former altar boy who testified in Father Andy's defense.

He went with Father Andy to Poland, along with O'Brien's parents.

What did he and the priest do in Poland for a week, the defense attorney asked.

They went to visit Polish churches, O'Brien said. They went to see Auschwitz and other former concentration camps. They went to see the town where Pope John Paul II grew up.

Another former altar boy who testified for the defense was Michael Paluch. Paluch told the jury that besides being an altar boy he also worked at the rectory for years, answering phones, and greeting visitors who showed up at the door.

Paluch told the jury he never saw Father Andy molest anybody, or act weird. He never saw the priest undress in front of anybody, or do anything that made Paluch feel uncomfortable.

"Everybody loves him," Paluch said of Father Andy.

After the defense rested, the judge scheduled closing statements for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, after which the case will go to the jury.


  1. '...cough...cough...cough....'

  2. Good job on not including Philip's testimony about being served alcohol and Fr. Andy giving him money to buy beer while in Poland. Is it hard for you to hide your undying love for Fr. Andy on a daily basis? Hopefully soon, all the sheep will be silenced.

    1. My Italian grandfather served me wine when I was 9 or 10 at the dinner table every Sunday. Pardon me for not being scandalized by somebody giving beer to a teenager.

    2. Bad example on the Italian far haven't heard any testimony that he's anyone's family member.....yes I know he's not on trial for giving alcohol to a minor.....not about being " scandalized" and it certainly doesn't prove a case..but give me a legit reason why someone other than the "Italian grandfather" figure does this?

    3. Alcohol to minors = Corruption of a minor.

      Legal age to drink in U.S. =21
      Legal age to drink in Poland =18

      Somebody's relative from the old country was breaking the law, but I can remember the old days of dad handing me a nice cold Schlitz. So I guess so was he.

      Does not change the law though.

    4. That's the dumbest thing I have heard so far! A sip off wine at dinner w grandpa vs an old lonely guy feeding children booze to loosen them up in another country?? U r as bad as the heads of the church who do anything to avoid scandal, including allowing priests to abuse children!!!! Are u serious w that analogy???!!!!

  3. Read the previous stories "He Was Like A Wounded Animal" and "Father Andy Faces HIs Accuser" and get back to me about my "undying love" for Father Andy.

  4. I guess there's no difference between your family serving you wine at a dinner table with OTHER family members who obviously consented to the practice and a priest giving a teenage boy beer and alcohol half way across the country while no immediate family is anywhere in sight. Forgive me for not seeing the similarities in the two situations. Sadly, some men get behind the "collar" and think that puts them above the law and other societal standards. In this case, I think the "collar" got a bit too tight and will now become his downfall.

    1. The priest isn't on trial for boundary violations. Whether he should remain a priest is another issue. Adam Visconto's mother certainly raised all the issues you're talking about. It's hard to argue with any of the points she raised. But again, that's not what the priest is on trial for.

    2. Is he not facing charges of corruption of a minor ? I understand your point you maybe trying to get across that the corruption of a minor charge is dealing with something sexually, but I do not see in the list of charges anyone making a difference.

      If he gave them money to buy alcohol or drink alcohol or if he gave minors Playboy magazines to read it still falls under the category corruption of a minor does it not ?

      Enough about that subject from me. I want to see him go down for the major charges if found guilty.

    3. He is not on trial for giving alcohol to Michael O'Brien? You enveloping the two kids together. There is no evidence, just like the Dan Gallagher case, to show any corruption of a minor. Your back in full swing Dennis, stretching the truth and manipulating the articles actual facts.

      Do you have anything to say to defend this priest based on what the maintenance man had to say in and out of the courtroom?

    4. chippy111

      Its not my job to defend or convict McCormick.

      To show support to another clergy abuse victim. Yes.

  5. You're absolutely right. But he clearly has issues with proper boundaries and juvenile males. Removing him from the priesthood is a step. But how can anyone guarantee that he won't pursue another position in the future where he is around younger males again? I know those are not questions any of us can answer. It's just a fear that will remain. I apologize if I got testy and/or disrespectful. That wasn't my intention.

    1. So are you saying he should be convicted because of what might happen in the future? Because that is how your post reads.

    2. You nailed it, Frank Talk. You see how grotesque the logic of the anti-Catholic bigots and witch-hunters has become:
      - "OK. So he may not have robbed a bank, but who's to say he might not do so in the future, when he comes near one? Guilty."
      - "OK. So he may not have robbed a bank, but others have, so let him pay for their crimes - and let this be a warning to others. Guilty."
      Anyone recognize the American justice system here?

    3. On this blog, we don't mind lively debate. Feel free to speak your mind.

  6. Right now, we are getting too far from ourselves. The jury has not rendered a verdict. Once a verdict is rendered, he will either go home or go to jail. Suppose he is acquitted, then there will be a review with Chaput on his fitness as a priest. I cannot predict what he will say but he reserves the ultimate decision on his fate.

    Very interesting remark made by the maintenance man outside the courtroom in which he said he put a priest in jail. Most of the media recognized him as one of the grand jurors in the Lynn trial. Question begging to be answered is if he was able to differentiate between the 1972 EWOC law and the 2007 revision of the EWOC law to make a proper decision on Lynn's guilt. Probably not as the jury was led by the gasoline laced trial of evidence laid by the prosecutor and aided and abetted by Judge Sarmina who did not care if Lynn was sentenced to be shot in City Hall Courtyard. The fact that he referred to errant priests as monsters supports this hypothesis. He and the other jurors paid no heed to the fact that previous cases of abuse that happened before Lynn was born and became a priest were dumped on Lynn. This miscarriage of justice will soon be corrected by the State Supreme Court.

    To have such mob rule happen in a court of law is an embarassment to Philadelphia, home of the founding of the United States of America and the liberties so cherished in our Constitution.

  7. Excerpt from Monica Yant Kinney Inquirer article - September, 2011:

    A week later, after another early service, Engelhardt made his move. "He told me to strip," Billy said. "He was very impatient."

    The priest also undressed, removing all but his SOCKS.

    1. That may have happened if Dan Gallagher actually served mass on those mornings. Which he DID NOT according to his own mothers calender and the alter server log from St. Jerome's. He never served those morning masses, which in turn makes his whole allegation a crock of shit. Engelhardt's lawyer blew it. Dan and the entire Gallagher family know the crimes never happened.

    2. Hi Chippy -

      I agree with you 1000% I was trying to suggest that perhaps - just perhaps - the person making the abuse allegations against Father McCormick may have borrowed some material from Billy's play book.

    3. Good point, Anonymous 1:55pm. Only, I'd change "Billy's play book" to "Daniel Gallagher's book of fairy tales."
      Watch my lips, jury: "It's not there." It's just not there.

  8. How did Pasternak, a 12 year employee of the AOP, get on the Lynn jury? Is there no conflict of interest there? And, how does this guy show up again as a witness with another AOP defendant? What's going on in this legal system?


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.