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Cops: Man claiming to be priest faces sex abuse charges

Police say Dennis McCormack, who calls himself a

Police say Dennis McCormack, who calls himself a bishop, performed a sexual act on a youth who is less than 19. Credit: Handout

A man who calls himself a priest but is not affiliated with any major denomination has been jailed on accusations of performing a sex act on a male teenage parishioner, Nassau police said Thursday.

Dennis Michael McCormack, 41, who says he conducts services in Latin out of a rented American Legion Hall in Plainview, committed the act on Tuesday, police said. Sources said there is a videotape being used in the investigation.

Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, Nassau's chief police spokesman, declined to discuss whether there was a video.

McCormack, of Massapequa, was arrested Wednesday and charged with a felony, criminal sexual act in the third degree, and a misdemeanor, child endangerment, records show. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment at First District Court in Hempstead Thursday. As of Thursday night, he was being held on $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail.

McCormack and the teen recently began "becoming very friendly," Smith said. And in February, McCormack "may have brought it to the next step and ... the relationship may have become more sexual."

A relative became suspicious of the relationship and told the boy's father, leading to the arrest. Smith said the two may have had intimate contact before Tuesday's act, but said there is only enough evidence to arrest him for Tuesday. The teen and his family are parishioners at McCormack's church, police said.

McCormack's church, Mary Immaculate Traditional Roman Catholic Chapel, rejects the reforms of the Roman Catholic Church's 1962 Second Vatican Council, such as that Mass can be celebrated in English, police and the church Web site said. A spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre said McCormack has no affiliation with the diocese.

McCormack rented the American Legion facility for Sunday and holy day services at a rate of $100 per week, for the past two years, the American Legion's Jerome McCloskey said Thursday. Forty to 50 people normally attended services, he said.

No one answered the door at McCormack's home Thursday, where a statue of the Virgin Mary sits in the front yard. Neighbors were shocked by the allegations against McCormack, who they said frequently wore vestments.

Theresa and Vincent Coiro, who live across the street, said McCormack grew up there and now lives with his mother. "I don't believe it," Theresa Coiro, 73, said of the charges. "He's just too good a person."

The couple said McCormack attended Catholic and pre-seminary schools. About three years ago, they said, McCormack performed last rites for Theresa Coiro's ailing mother. "As far as we know, he's a Catholic priest," she said.

With Bart Jones

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