US ex-priest jailed for child sex abuse

BOSTON (Reuter) - A former Roman Catholic priest was sentenced yesterday to 18 to 20 years in prison for molesting 28 children, in one of the worst cases of sexual abuse involving the US clergy.

James Porter, 58, who left the priesthood in 1974 and is now married with four children, was sentenced to several concurrent jail terms by a court in Bristol County, Massachusetts, after admitting 41 counts of sexual assault between 1960 and 1968. He was also ordered to be placed on probation for 10 years after his parole - for which he will be eligible in six years - and will not be allowed to be alone with minors.

Twenty-two of his victims - now adults - told of being haunted by emotional problems, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, difficulties in relationships, legal problems and psychological turmoil that has carried over into their own families. 'I still cry when I see children playing today,' one said. 'I feel as if I have been and continue to carry a dead child within me.'

Porter, who admitted dozens of counts of sodomy, indecent assault and child molestation, said: 'Every time I look in the mirror, my mind makes me see the monster that I was. My conduct will stain my life until I die.'

The case has been called one of the worst of paedophilia by a member of the US clergy, and provoked sharp criticism of the Catholic church by showing that although Porter was accused of abuse as early as 1963, he was not disciplined but transferred from parish to parish, where his list of victims grew.

All his victims were under 16. Of 99 men and women who accused him of abuse, 68 were part of a reported dollars 5m ( pounds 3.35m) settlement of a civil law suit against the Church.