Published May 10, 2012
PHILADELPHIA – A Roman Catholic nun testified Thursday that she and two relatives were sexually abused by a priest described by a church leader as "one of the sickest people I ever knew."
The nun testified in the clergy-abuse trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official charged with felony child endangerment for allegedly leaving predator-priests in ministry.
The nun said she, her sister and cousin went to the archdiocese in 1991 to report 1970s-era abuse by the Rev. Nicholas Cudemo, and ask that he be removed as a parish pastor. They met with Monsignors James Molloy and Lynn, who worked in the Office for Clergy.
The sisters had been molested as girls and the cousin repeatedly raped, they reported.
Cudemo was put on leave and sent for a psychiatric evaluation. But the family soon learned he was saying Mass at other parishes.
"I felt misled in thinking that taking a leave of absence would mean he would not be able to say a public Mass," the nun testified.
The nun said she talked to Lynn about Cudemo again in 1998, when Lynn led the Office for Clergy. He took over the job from Molloy in 1992.
On cross-examination, Lynn's lawyer asked if she thought Lynn had the power to remove a priest from ministry.
"He had the power to suggest it," the nun said. "I imagine things would be signed off by the archbishop."
She conceded that the archdiocese is "a very hierarchical structure." But Lynn, she said, could have quit.
"I would imagine the office of secretary for clergy has a great deal of power," she said. "You can also say, 'I cannot do this.' ... You can walk away."
The woman gave her name in court, but The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they have been sexually abused.
Cudemo was allowed to retire in 1996 as a priest in good standing, which made him eligible to say Mass in other dioceses.
The grand jury accused him of sexually molesting 11 girls. He violated one girl with a Communion wafer, let another priest have sex with her and took her for an abortion when he got her pregnant in junior high school, the grand jury said.
"Cudemo, ordained in 1963, was described to the grand jury as 'one of the sickest people I ever knew' by ... Molloy, Cardinal Bevilacqua's Vicar for Administration," the 2005 grand jury report said.
Cudemo was defrocked that same year. He had worked at three archdiocesan high schools from 1969 to 1977 — allegedly transferred amid abuse claims — and later at several parishes.
Messages left this week at a possible phone number in Florida for Cudemo have not been immediately returned. The trial, now in its seventh week, could wrap up by Memorial Day.