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Pennsylvania priest charged with indecent assault, corruption of teen girl

By Susan McFarland

Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Less than a week after a grand jury report detailed sex assault accusations against Catholic Church priests in Pennsylvania, another has been charged in an unrelated case.

Kevin Lonergan, of Pottsville, Pa., was charged Tuesday with one count each of corruption of minors and indecent assault -- for inappropriate contact and sending nude photos of himself to a 17-year-old parishoner. He was released from jail Tuesday on $50,000 bail.

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Last week, Pennsylvania's attorney general released the grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups across six dioceses, including Lonergan's Diocese of Allentown.

The report acknowledged "predator priests" in the dioceses of Allenton, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. It said at least 1,000 children were abused by more than 300 priests.

RELATED Pope Francis hopes to meet sex abuse victims in Ireland

Lonergan's charges, though, are not related to the grand jury investigation, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said.

Martin said Lonergan, 30, obtained the parishoner's phone number from another church member and began communicating and sending the nude photos via Snapchat.

The teen girl told another priest of the assault in June and the diocese reported it to the district attorney's office. Lonergan was immediately suspended from public ministry.

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"Regrettably we have a lot of cases of this type, which involve child victims who are subject to sexual and other types of abuse," Martin said. "The fact that this happens to be a clergy member is certainly regrettable and in today's climate newsworthy, but it's much the same vein as any other case."

The diocese said it didn't publicize the accusations right away so the DA's office could investigate.

If convicted, Lonergan could face nine years in prison.

RELATED Vatican condemns 'predator priests' in Penn. grand jury report

This week, Pope Francis strongly condemned the priests included in the grand jury investigation, and the Vatican called the accusations "criminally and morally reprehensible."

Vatican press officer Greg Burke said the church is taking the report seriously and "condemns unequivocally" the abuse of minors.

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