PHILADELPHIA - A witness in a landmark priest-abuse trial in Philadelphia described feeling “helpless and trapped’’ as a 13-year-old because a priest was fondling her when she worked weekends at the rectory, she told a jury Thursday.
The woman says she didn’t tell anyone for years and later learned the same priest had fondled two younger sisters.
Her testimony came in the fourth day of the child-endangerment trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in Philadelphia. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic church official in the United States charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving predators in jobs around children.
Defense lawyers say Lynn took orders from two archbishops. No other church administrators are charged.
The priest who allegedly fondled the woman at a suburban Montgomery County parish around 1970 was removed from ministry after the church sex-abuse scandal broke in 2004. By then, he had admitted to an archdiocesan review board his “longstanding habit’’ of fondling girls’ breasts, according to a 2005 grand jury report. The Associated Press is not naming him because he was never charged.
Prosecutors are showing jurors his personnel files, and those of 20 other accused priests, to try to show that they were left in ministry despite complaints, and some admissions, of child sexual abuse.
A fellow priest had contacted the archdiocese about the priest in 1988. Police in Bucks County had received a complaint about him the previous year but declined to press charges.
The woman said her mother had signed her up to cook for priests on weekends for $5.
On cross-examination, she acknowledged that the archdiocese responded when she first reported her story in 2002, offered to pay for therapy, and later informed her that the priest had been removed from ministry.
The trial is expected to last several months as prosecutors outline how the archdiocese handled sex-abuse complaints over several decades. Lynn’s codefendant is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Both he and Lynn have pleaded not guilty.
Earlier Thursday, jurors heard about a priest who admitted he sexually assaulted three eighth-grade boys in one year. He resigned in 1980.