The priest was pen pals with a predator.
A Brooklyn priest kept up a bizarre correspondence with a church volunteer whose sexual abuse of young boys put him behind bars and led the Diocese of Brooklyn to reach a $27.5 million settlement with four victims.
Rev. Frank Shannon, 51, was a defendant in a pair of lawsuits that resulted in the landmark settlement that stemmed from years of abuse by 67-year-old Angelo Serrano at St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Clinton Hill.
Serrano was arrested in 2009 and pleaded guilty two years later to inappropriate course of sexual conduct with a child.
As Serrano began his 15-year-prison term, Shannon kept in touch.
“Ang, I miss hanging out with you and working with you. I keep dreaming that we’ll have it again. Have a peaceful and blessed Christmas amigo. Love, Paco,” Shannon wrote in a letter introduced in a lawsuit over Serrano’s abuse.
In one letter, Shannon called Serrano “Angelito.”
He opened another handwritten letter with the words: “WOW do I miss you!!!!”
“We’re sending our camp to the beach today,” the letter went on. “You were so great on all those TRIPS. Thank you for having been such a wonderful support and friend. I don’t forget – and never will.”
Asked about the letters, Shannon referred the Daily News to the Diocese of Brooklyn’s press office.
In a deposition, Shannon said the letters, many of which were written between 2011 and 2013, were like “poetry.”
“It is nice things to say to someone, a nice expression of some kind of friendship, but it is not necessarily literally the truth,” Shannon said.
In reality, Shannon did not miss “hanging out” with Serrano, he said in his deposition.
Yet Shannon cared enough about Serrano to visit him at the Fishkill Correctional Facility upstate and to send him a $100 money order to be used at the prison commissary, the letters show.
In one odd aside in the letters, Shannon longed for the hot summer days when he would bike over to Serrano’s apartment in a converted church schoolhouse and “then drink a gallon of water and just shoot the bull.”
“He was visiting the pedophile. There are a lot of questions there,” said lawyer Ben Rubinowitz, who represented the victims.
A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge wrote that Shannon and his successor at the now-shuttered church, Rev. Stephen Lynch, were aware that young boys slept over at Serrano’s home before his arrest in 2009.
“They both dropped the ball and failed to recognize the signs of abuse and follow the policies,” said Peter Saghir, another victims’ lawyer.
Asked in the deposition if he’d thought of the boys abused by Serrano while writing the fawning letters, Shannon replied “no.”
“I was still confused,” Shannon said.
Shannon, who left St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s in 2005, testified that young boys were present during some of his visits to Serrano’s home.
The settlement money will be paid in part by an after-school center affiliated with the church and divided evenly among four boys who were between the ages of 8 and 12 when the abuse occurred.