Ex-Philly Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse Charges

The former priest was accused of molesting an altar boy

A defrocked Philly priest pleaded guilty to sexually molesting an altar boy Thursday, just days before a landmark priest abuse trail was set to start.

Edward Avery, 69, was sentenced to 2-1/2 to five years in jail for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger children. He was ordered to surrender in 10 days, according to authorities.

Avery was scheduled to go on trial on Monday.

According to court documents obtained by NBC10, Avery admitted that in 1999, he "engaged in oral sexual intercourse" with a 10-year-old boy while Avery was a priest at St. Jerome's Parish in northeast Philadelphia. Avery was 57 at the time.

Two other church officials will still go on trial. His co-defendant , Rev. James Brennan, is also charged with rape. Monsignor William Lynn is accused of endangering children by transferring the two accused priests to new parishes during the 1990s. The 61-year-old Lynn has pleaded not guilty and blames the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua for hiding the problem.

Avery was at the parish despite a credible 1992 complaint that led him to undergo psychological testing at an archdiocesan-run psychiatric hospital, according to a grand jury report. He was pulled from his parish, put on a so-called "health leave" and then reassigned in 1993, the report said.

Avery's accuser said he was passed around by Avery, another priest and his Catholic school teacher in 1998-99. When Mass was ended, Fr. (Edward) Avery "took the fifth-grader into the sacristy, turned on the music, and ordered him to perform a 'striptease' for him...When they were both naked, the priest had the boy sit on his lap and kissed his neck and back, while saying to him that God loved him," the grand jury report alleged. Oral sex and digital penetration followed, the report said.

In the court document for Avery's guilty plea today, the prosecutor told the judge:

"Avery was aided in his efforts to remain in ministry with unsupervised access to parish children and altar servers by Lynn and others in the Archdiocese. Defendant Lynn and other Archdiocese officials acted in concert with Avery with a common purpose to conceal Avery's known acts of sexual abuse of a minor, [1992 accuser] so that Avery could remain in ministry without the knowledge of parishioners whose children would be exposed to a man that Defendant Lynn and others in the Archdiocese knew presented a danger to children."

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