A Catholic Navy chaplain was sentenced to two years in jail on Thursday for forcible sodomy and failing to tell his sex partner that he was HIV positive.
John Thomas Matthew Lee, a priest since 1993 and a military chaplain since 1996, decided to plead guilty before a military court at Marine Corps base Quantico in Virginia.
The plea agreement, which included informing the authorities about every sex partner he ever had, meant that ten of the initial twelve-year sentence was suspended.
Lee admitted all of the 11 charges, including that he had had sex with a military officer without telling him he had AIDS, forced himself on a midshipman, and coerced a marine he was counselling to take nude pictures.
During the hearing, Lee apologised for his crimes and said he was remorseful both as a Navy officer and as a priest.
“I have brought such dishonour, I would like to apologise for all the harm I have done,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Victims’ groups criticised the sentence, saying it was too light.
Prosecutors had asked a fifteen-year sentence for the Lee.
The priest, without a plea agreement, had risked a life sentence if found guilty of forcible sodomy under US military law.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national organisation of victims of sexual abuse by clergy, said he believed things were worse in the military than in other dioceses.
“For a sex offender priest, the military is very attractive because of the transience of military families and the even greater authority and trust that comes with having two titles, both a priest and an officer,” he told Army Times.
The archdiocese where Lee was ordained priest was informed last June about his alleged sexual misconduct and prevented him from performing the Mass.
The Army Times reported that at least 25 priests who have served as military chaplains in the last 30 years have faced allegations of sexual misconduct.