PHILADELPHIA — Jurors in a landmark church sex-abuse trial were presented with evidence 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 introduced decades of correspondence from mental health facilities, therapists and church officials regarding then-priest Edward DePaoli. The documents from 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 over two decades before he was defrocked 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 keeping pedophile priests in parish work around children to protect the church’s reputation.
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.
The paper trail presented by prosecutors Tuesday began with DePaoli’s 1986 conviction, when he was assistant pastor at Holy Martyrs parish in Oreland just outside Philadelphia. He was found to have magazines, films and videotapes of underage boys. He received a one-year suspension.
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.” 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.
A 55-year-old woman testified Tuesday that she was fondled by DePaoli when she was a 12-year-old parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown. She said her family had recently immigrated and did not report it out of fear that they would not be believed. She said they met with Lynn and Bevilacqua in 2002 after learning the priest was still around children.
“My feeling was that they didn’t really care,” she said. “They were just going through the motions.”