September 26, 2013: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged the Rev. Robert L. Brennan with Rape, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (IDSI), and Aggravated Indecent Assault. He is charged with sexually assaulting an altar boy at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia between 1998 and 2001, beginning when the boy was 11 and continuing until he was 14 years old. Brennan, then 60 to 63 years old, was the assistant pastor at the church. Brennan is accused of digitally penetrating the boy’s anus, beginning when the victim was in 6th grade. He later began forcing the boy to perform oral sex on him. The assaults took place in the sacristy of the church, in the priest’s rectory bedroom, in a storage area on parish property, and in a movie theater. The abuse continued for three years.
Brennan, who now lives in Maryland, was arrested late on Wednesday, September 25th by Perryville Maryland police. He is currently being held in Cecil County and is expected to go before a judge there later today for an extradition hearing.
The victim reported Brennan’s abuse to the Archdiocese in January 2013, six months after a jury convicted Monsignor William Lynn of child endangerment for failing to supervise predatory priests. In accordance with its current policy of reporting all sexual abuse accusations to law enforcement, the Archdiocese immediately forwarded this victim’s allegations to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. The lengthy subsequent investigation resulted in Brennan’s arrest.
“A serial abuser is now behind bars thanks to the brave actions of this young man,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “It takes tremendous courage for any sexual assault victim to come forward and report the horrors he or she endured, particularly if it happened over the course of several years. The Archdiocese is also to be commended for immediately turning this case over to our office. I hope this arrest continues to send the message to sexual assault victims that we hear you, and we will bring the person to justice.”
The case of Robert Brennan presents another instance of abuse under the watch of Monsignor Lynn, secretary of clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilaqua. The actions Lynn took to shield predator priests from exposure and prosecution led to the victimization of untold numbers of Philadelphia-area children. Brennan, who is now 75 years old, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His duties have been restricted since shortly after a Philadelphia grand jury documented numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with other children. In 2005, the Grand Jury found that during the tenure of Cardinal Bevilacqua the Archdiocese was notified that Brennan had sexually or inappropriately touched more than 20 boys, many from the schools of the parishes where he was assigned. Most of the complaints were based on the observations of Archdiocese employees–fellow priests, principals, and rectory workers. But the priest’s Archdiocese supervisors ignored these reports for over a decade.
Evidence of misconduct by Brennan dates back to at least 1990 and 1991, when the principal of St. Pius X High School and the principal of the parish school at St. Mary’s in Schwenksville raised concerns about Brennan’s improper behavior with numerous students. The officials removed him from St. Mary’s in 1992, only after the mother of a 7th grade altar boy complained that Brennan had touched her son inappropriately and forced him to sit on the priest’s lap.
Even then, Brennan was merely recycled to another assignment around unsuspecting children and parents. In December of 1993, Monsignor Lynn recommended that the accused priest be assigned to Resurrection of Our Lord Parish. Lynn did so even though doctors at
St. John Vianney, the Archdiocese-owned hospital that evaluates and treats priests accused of sexual abuse, had warned him and others that Brennan exhibited evidence of pedophilia and “like anyone with a recurring problematic behavior pattern presents future risk.” Resurrection had a large parish school and in testimony before the Grand Jury, Bishop Edward Cullen, who served as Vicar General in the Archdiocese under Cardinal Bevilacqua, acknowledged that assigning Brennan to Resurrection and leaving him there, without restrictions, endangered the parish’s children.
According to the Grand Jury’s findings, Brennan continued to exhibit at Resurrection of Our Lord the same sexually abusive behavior toward adolescent boys that principals at St. Mary’s and St. Pius X had previously reported. Two years before the incidents with which Brennan is now charged, the pastor at Resurrection reported to Secretary for Clergy Lynn that the rectory staff had observed Brennan inappropriately touching and wrestling with several adolescent boys in the sacristy and the rectory. Still, Lynn did not recommend removing the priest from his position, and Brennan continued as assistant pastor at Resurrection. In that capacity, he met, supervised, and abused the victim who has now come forward.
Lynn never reported to law enforcement any of the many allegations he heard about Brennan. Some of Brennan’s victims testified before the Grand Jury; others have come forward since to describe how he molested and sexually assaulted them. Yet these victims were unable to press charges because the crimes fell outside the statute of limitations. Thus, with the assistance of Lynn and others in the Archdiocese, Brennan until today escaped prosecution for his decades-long sexual abuse of boys whom he encountered as a priest.
Despite the applicability of the endangerment statute to Lynn and other Archdiocese managers for this current victim, they are not being charged today because this victim’s age puts his allegations three months beyond the criminal statute of limitations for endangering the welfare of children. Only the sexual assault crimes by Brennan himself, which carry a longer statute of limitations, can still be prosecuted.
“I applaud this victim for courageously coming forward now, and I hope this arrest encourages others to do likewise,” continued District Attorney Williams. “This Office is committed to prosecuting sexual offenders, even if it takes their victims years to reveal their painful stories.”