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Pennsylvania

Gag order precedes trial on Philadelphia priest molestation charges

| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 8:00 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A judge issued a gag order on Monday as another Roman Catholic priest prepares to go on trial in Philadelphia over abuse claims.

A former altar boy has accused the Rev. Andrew McCormick of sexually assaulting him after Mass one day in 1997.

McCormick, 57, vows to fight the charges. His lawyer has previously called the accuser “opportunistic,” suggesting he came forward once McCormick was publicly suspended, perhaps with an eye to suing the church.

The accuser contacted police in 2012 and said news accounts of the Jerry Sandusky and Philadelphia archdiocese sex-abuse trials compelled him to come forward. He said he had been sexually assaulted in a rectory bedroom.

Defense lawyer William Brennan, speaking before the gag order was imposed, described the trial accuser's complaint as a “lone, unsubstantiated, decades-old allegation.”

Philadelphia prosecutors have been investigating priest abuse allegations in Philadelphia for a decade and gained several convictions.

The office won a 2012 trial conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, the first American church supervisor charged with felony child endangerment for keeping pedophiles in ministry. However, an appeals court overturned the conviction in December, finding the law was misapplied. Lynn was released from prison after 18 months, about half his minimum sentence. Prosecutors are appealing.

Lynn is on house arrest at a city rectory, waiting to hear whether the state Supreme Court will hear the appeal.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia archdiocese announced this weekend that it would permanently remove two more accused priests from ministry, upon finding complaints of long-ago abuse credible.

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