- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia priest huddled and prayed with three Polish-order nuns in a courthouse hallway Thursday as he awaited a jury’s verdict in his child sex abuse trial.

The Rev. Andrew McCormick testified this week that he never molested a former altar boy whose mother had sought his counsel thinking her 10-year-old son was gay.

“If this guy’s a child molester, why is there only one victim?” defense lawyer William J. Brennan asked in closing arguments Thursday.

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McCormick, though, has been suspended from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia since 2011 over other complaints, including allegations he was too close to another altar boy and ignored orders to steer clear of him. On the stand he also conceded he ignored church reprimands to keep children out of his private living quarters.

The accuser, now 26, testified he was molested in a rectory bedroom in 1997 and though it was punishment for being gay. He told the jury he tried to hang himself the next year, when he was 11.

The jury worked two hours Thursday without reaching a verdict, and is set to return Friday.

McCormick is the latest in a string of Catholic priests tried on child sexual-assault charges in Philadelphia. Several were convicted and are serving lengthy prison terms. McCormick, arrested after the accuser came forward in 2012, rejected a plea offer in the case. He is charged with several felony charges, including deviate sexual intercourse.

The defense witnesses included former altar boys who said they traveled to Poland with McCormick as boys and were not molested. The prosecutor noted, though, that one said he could not remember if he roomed with McCormick on the trip, or got drunk on the beer the priest gave him.

McCormick, 57, was one of nearly two dozen priests suspended belatedly in 2011, when a grand jury report found they were still in ministry despite accusations involving abuse, boundary issues or other concerns involving children. His church file includes allegations involving pornography and alleged deception on polygraph questions about sexual contact with children, lawyers said in court, outside of the jury’s presence.

Brennan described his client as an “awkward,” nervous man, and he appeared that way on the witness stand.

In one bizarre bit of testimony, McCormick’s elderly testified that she had bought his underwear all his life, and that she bought white briefs. The accuser said the priest had worn blue plaid boxers.

“To put your 87-year-old mother up to imply that you had no other access to underwear, that is ridiculous, that is offensive,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp argued Thursday.

A few dozen parishioners from St. John Cantius in northeast Philadelphia, where McCormick served from 1986 to 2000, have come to court to support him, along with three nuns in full habit who belong to a Franciscan order based in Krakow. Some had served with McCormick at a parish in Swedesburg, Montgomery County, where he was last assigned.

“He’s a beautiful person,” said Sr. Jacinta Miryam Hanley, the provincial superior of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. “He’s a very chaste person, in speech and action. So (the charges are) totally foreign to his character.”

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