Priest’s arrest shows Philadelphia reforms, attorney says

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2013 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Philadelphia archdiocese drew praise for its swift reporting of an inactive priest to authorities after a young man said that he had been abused during his time as an altar boy between 1998 and 2001.

“A serial predator is now behind bars, thanks to the brave actions of this young man,” Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams announced at a Sept. 26 press conference.

“It takes tremendous courage for any sexual assault victim, especially young boys, to come forward and report the horrors they endured, particularly if it happened over the course of several years.”
 
“The archdiocese is also to be commended for immediately reporting this case to our office,” he added.

Father Robert L. Brennan, who is currently undergoing the canonical process of laicization and was removed from ministry in 2005, has been charged with several sexual offenses against a boy who served at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in northeast Philadelphia.

The alleged abuse started when the boy was 11 and continued until he was 14. When the abuse reportedly began, Fr. Brennan was a 60-year-old assistant priest at the parish.

The young man reported the alleged abuse in January 2013. The Philadelphia district attorney praised the swift response of the archdiocese.

“The archdiocese … immediately – and by immediately I mean that same day – contacted the district attorney’s office of Philadelphia to share with us this report,” Williams said.

“I think it must be recognized that this is a sea change over previous protocol and practices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I spoke with Archbishop (Charles) Chaput this morning, thanking him for the internal reforms that this case demonstrates.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia responded to the arrest in a Sept. 26 statement, saying that “since arriving in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput has reinforced the archdiocese’s strong commitment to work with law enforcement in ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault,” adding that it reports all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to authorities.
 
Fr. Brennan was arrested in Maryland and will undergo an extradition hearing. He has been the subject of numerous sexual abuse allegations, detailed in a 2005 grand jury report, but his previous alleged victims had come forward after the statute of limitations on the charges had expired.

“He has not been permitted to function as a priest anywhere since that time,” the archdiocese noted.

The grand jury report criticized former Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other archdiocesan authorities for their handling of abuse cases.

Monsignor William J. Lynn, the former secretary of clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua, was convicted in 2012 on one count of child endangerment for failing to protect children from abusive priests.

Williams said that the latest alleged victim implicates the monsignor. He said Msgr. Lynn ignored reports of Brennan’s previous abuse and recommended the priest be assigned to Resurrection of Our Lord Parish despite doctors’ warnings that the priest “exhibited signs of pedophilia” and that this pattern presented future risk.

Williams said that Pennsylvania’s child endangerment statute would have applied to Msgr. Lynn and to other archdiocesan officials in this case, except that the alleged victim's age was three months past the legal statute of limitations.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia encouraged those with information about Fr. Brennan to report it to the district attorney. The archdiocese offers support for sex abuse victims through its Victim Assistance Office.

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