T WO MEN followed starkly different paths to the witness stand.
The 49-year-old was raised in the suburbs, graduated from medical school, got married and had five children. The 23-year-old from Northeast Philadelphia was kicked out of two high schools, attempted suicide and got hooked on heroin and prescription drugs.
In tense and emotional testimony to a Common Pleas Court jury on Wednesday, the two alleged victims described a bond: Each said that he had been sexually abused by his parish priest, Edward Avery.
Together, their testimony represented a pillar of the landmark conspiracy and endangerment case that prosecutors are trying to prove against Monsignor William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. They contend that Lynn's failure to remove Avery from active ministry after learning of one allegation in 1992 enabled the priest to abuse the fifth-grader at St. Jerome's seven years later.
Avery pleaded guilty to that assault days before the trial opened, but Lynn has denied the charges.
The 49-year-old Philadelphia man said that he became friends with Avery in the late 1970s, when the priest was an assistant at St. Phillip Neri Church, in East Greenville, and he was an altar boy. Avery would often take the boys on trips, including to a Jersey Shore house where the boys would drink alcohol and the priest would wrestle them, the witness said. There were two other inappropriate sexual incidents, and in 1992 the man confronted Avery in a letter. He sent copies to Lynn's predecessor, the Rev. John Jagodzinski.
Lynn interviewed the priest and his accuser in fall 1992. Avery denied the allegation, but Lynn recommended that he be removed as a pastor and sent to St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan-owned facility where accused priests were treated. Lynn also identified Avery as "Guilty of Sexual Misconduct with Minors" in a list of suspected priests Avery drafted in 1994.
Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom highlighted records that show Lynn notified Bevilacqua one day after hearing the accusation.
After his treatment, Avery was allowed to live at the rectory at St. Jerome's, where, the younger man testified Wednesday, Avery twice forced him to strip and engage in oral sex.