By Sophia Chang
Byrns was held on charges of sexual conduct against a child and 20 counts of sexual abuse for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with an altar boy for two years at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, according to the DA.Byrns was being held on $10,000 bail and could face five to 25 years in jail if convicted. He is scheduled to appear at the Brooklyn Supreme Court on Oct. 18.St. Rose of Lima officials declined to comment. Officials at St. Anastasia, at 245th Street and Northern Boulevard where Byrns served from 1969 to 1983, deferred all questions to Monsignor George Ryan, who was on vacation.The 61-year-old Byrns of Rockaway made headlines in 2002 when news reports revealed that Douglaston natives Timothy and Bob Lambert, who had attended St. Anastasia as boys in the 1970s, had accused Byrns of sexual abuse in 1998. The TimesLedger reported in 2002 that former altar boy Timothy Lambert, now a priest at Corpus Christi Church in South River, N.J., and his brother Bob Lambert, now living in Las Vegas, said Byrns had taken the boys under his wing and abused them periodically over a number of years. At the time that the Lamberts made their claims public in 2002, a spokesman for the Brooklyn diocese said it had investigated the claims and found Byrns' subsequent denials to be more credible.”We did an investigation of both the Lamberts and Father Byrns,” Brooklyn diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa told the TimesLedger in March 2002. “We felt Byrns' strong and vehement denials of the charges established his credibility.”After going through the diocese, the Lamberts took their allegations to the Queens district attorney and joined a $300 million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church because the statute of limitations had expired on the brothers' claims. Efforts to reach the Lamberts were unsuccessful, and Michael Dowd, the Lamberts' lawyer, did not return phone calls by press time.The new charges filed by the Brooklyn DA's office allege that at the same time Byrns was proclaiming his innocence in the Lamberts' case, he was abusing another child at St. Rose of Lima, where he served until he was suspended in July 2002 and ultimately dismissed this June.The DA said that in 2000 “the victim, then 11 years old, was a student, parishioner and altar server at St. Rose of Lima Church. Father Byrns called him at home to be an altar server for a special mass on a Saturday. … The child went to the rectory to meet the priest but there was no mass.” Instead, the DA charges, Byrns began abusing the child.”Father Byrns would call the child to be an altar server about once every two months. On those occasions, Father Byrns would again sexually abuse the child,” the DA's office said. “The priest gave the child money and toys and threatened him not to tell anyone.” The abuse went on until the spring of 2002, when the child stopped being an altar server, the DA said. The child and his family moved out of state in 2003 and he disclosed the alleged abuse this summer to police, according to the DA.”The number of allegations against priests are very small,” Hynes said. “The overwhelming members of the diocese are honest, dedicated, selfless individuals.”Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, released a statement Monday expressing his concern over the recent allegations and obliquely referring to the Lamberts' charges. “My delegates and I will follow this painful matter as it moves through the judicial system,” DiMarzio said. “…in 2002, after the Queens district attorney found earlier allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against Father Byrns to be credible, (then-Bishop) Daily placed him on administrative leave.”He went on to say that “after the Diocesan Review Board also found the prior allegations credible, I accepted the panel's recommendation that Father Byrns not be permitted to active ministry.DiMarzio said “at that point, I forwarded the case to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for further instruction.” Anyone who wants to report sexual misconduct against a minor by a member of the clergy can call 888-634-4499 to contact the relevant DA, the diocesan Victim Survivor Coordinator and the diocese, he said.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.