Convicted Pa. priest remained clergyman for years

April 10, 2012 11:52:05 AM PDT
Jurors in a landmark church sex-abuse trial were presented with documents Tuesday outlining the troubled clerical career of a priest who was convicted of child pornography charges yet remained in ministry for years despite similar and repeated complaints.

Prosecutors presented years of correspondence from mental health facilities, therapists and church officials regarding Edward DePaoli when he was a priest. The documents, kept in the archdiocese's secret archives, outlined how DePaoli, after being convicted in federal court of child pornography charges in 1986, went through psychological treatment, rounds of therapy, and a half dozen church assignments for two decades before he was removed from the priesthood in 2005.

DePaoli is not a defendant in the trial but prosecutors are using the testimony about him and others to build a case against Monsignor William Lynn, who was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 and entrusted with investigating complaints against priests. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly transferring priests suspected of molestation.

Prosecutors charge that Lynn kept pedophile priests in parish work around children to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal. Lynn faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and child endangerment.

Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996. He and Lynn have both entered not guilty pleas. A third co-defendant, former priest Edward Avery, entered a guilty plea on the eve of the trial to a sex abuse charge and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison.

Although DePaoli was barred from administering sacraments or saying Mass in public, he continued to participate in Mass and perform other public duties until 2002.

The paper trail presented by prosecutors Tuesday began with his 1986 conviction, when he was assistant pastor at Holy Martyrs parish in Oreland in southeast Pennsylvania. He was found to have magazines, films and videotapes of underage boys. He received a one-year suspended sentence and was sent to counseling.

Doctor reports in December 1986 warned that DePaoli "is likely to repeat his past behavior and to become progressively worse ... he could go beyond fantasy (regarding) his sexual fantasies towards children" and he was "in need of extensive psychological work." Instead, DePaoli was transferred out of the Philadelphia archdiocese to St. John Vianney Church in Colonia, N.J., for three years. In 1991, he returned to Philadelphia as associate pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church.

In 1992, priests reported DePaoli was again receiving pornography in the mail and parishioners reported that he made inappropriate comments at a children's Mass about imagining an 8th grade girl naked.

The priest rejected the archdiocese's suggestion for in-patient hospitalization and lobbied to return to Saint John the Baptist but the priests there were vehemently opposed, according to the documents. DePaoli was put on administrative leave and eventually went to St. Gabriel's rectory in the rural Montgomery County town of Stowe, near Pottstown.

A nun testified Monday that she was fired from her job as director of education at St. Gabriel's in 1996 after she reported to then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua about sexually explicit magazines and other mail arriving for DePaoli shortly after his arrival there.