Father Eric Taylor, who abused boys as young as six and then stood by as they were beaten by nuns for complaining, was found guilty of 16 charges of indecent assault and two charges of buggery.
During sentencing at Warwick Crown Court, Judge Marten Coates told 78- year-old Taylor: "For nearly seven years you were in a position of trust and authority at the home at Coleshill.
"These homes had been set up to rescue the most vulnerable people in our society.
"You told the jury the regime was harsh and boys were beaten in an unlawful manner. Not only did you do nothing about this, but you knew the fear of receiving such punishment meant that the boys were unlikely to complain.
"Those few who did knew their complaints would not be believed and secure in that knowledge you indulged yourself.
"The lifelong damage you inflicted has been seen during the course of this trial. The trust placed in you, you abused on a daily basis."
During the two-week trial the jury heard of a catalogue of offences at the Father Hudson's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire, between 1957 and 1965.
After the verdict, one jury member left the court in tears as it was revealed that Taylor had been previously been fined by magistrates for abusing four boys at his vicarage in Worcestershire in 1975
Taylor, of Aston-by-Stone, Staffordshire, was jailed for seven years on the two counts of buggery and five years, to run concurrently, on the charges of indecent assault.
Now in their forties and fifties, the 16 victims who helped secure a conviction are only the tip of the iceberg, it is believed.
At least two orphans who were at the home during Taylor's reign committed suicide, according to Warwickshire police who have also revealed that 10 more former residents had come forward since the beginning of the trial.
Victims told how Taylor was "like a Pied Piper" who was revered at the orphanage, by nuns who admired his status as a former prisoner of war, and by young boys whom he would reward with cigarettes, money and sweets.
Taylor, who spent four years in a war camp in Austria after being captured while serving with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, arrived at the home in 1957 after being ordained three years earlier.
He would prey on young boys as they slept in their dormitories, the court heard.
Nuns at the orphanage would beat those who complained with belts, canes, wet rags and straps, it emerged, and people who complained about Taylor's activities would be forced to do chores.
Taylor, who denied all the charges, was found not guilty of two further charges of buggery and one charge of indecent assault.
The Roman Catholic Church last night apologised to the priests' victims. A joint statement issued by the Father Hudson Society and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, read: "We deeply regret the effect of Father Taylor's actions and will offer counselling and ongoing support as appropriate to those concerned."
The Father Hudson Society has not operated residential homes since 1984 but runs a range of services including adoption, fostering, residential and day care for older people and those with disabilities.
Judge Coates told Taylor: "The boys came from all walks of life. You are a disgrace to your cloth and the church you proclaim. Your victims were not only young but they were helpless, you were the nearest thing they had to a father figure."Reuse content