Rev. Peadar (Peter) J. Brennan—Assignment
Summary of Case: The documents obtained by survivors in the San Diego settlement contain no evidence that Brennan is accused of sexually abusing minors. He is accused of fathering two children while he was the founding pastor (1982-1988) at St. Francis of Assisi parish in La Quinta. Bishop Straling kept him at the parish despite letters written by the woman's husband to Pope John Paul II, and only removed him when the second baby was due and the mother threatened to sue. Straling's emphasis was on restoring Brennan to ministry, not on the health and wellbeing of the mother and the children. Brennan was moved to the San Diego diocese and then out of state to a Servants of the Paraclete treatment facility in Arizona, while a settlement was negotiated, and then to a parish in the San Francisco archdiocese. Two years later, Straling made Brennan the founding pastor (1991-1995) of Holy Innocents parish in Victorville, but in 1995 a whistleblower reported to Auxiliary Bishop Barnes and to Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the Vatican's Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in the United States, that Brennan had fathered a third child. Barnes had been made administrator of the diocese on 3/21/95 and was appointed bishop of San Bernardino on 12/28/95. The whistleblower wrote that a friend who was a priest asked Brennan, "Do you love this woman?", to which Father Brennan replied, "I'm not sure. Once you're touched by the Lord, it's difficult to love anyone else." Barnes removed Brennan, announcing that the priest would seek laicization in order to marry. But the files do not show that Brennan was ever laicized. He began receiving retirement benefits in 2003. Note: The Brennan file obtained in discovery was at least 245 pages long, but the diocese successfully claimed privilege on 102 pages. Only 143 pages were released to the public. Moreover, the page that lists Brennan's assignments was completely redacted. We have reconstructed Brennan's assignment history below.
Born: 1/10/38 in Ragoora, Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Seminary: All Hallows College, Dublin
Ordained: 6/18/61 for work in the United States
Incardinated: San Diego diocese 6/18/61-7/14/78 (included future territory of the San Bernardino diocese); San Bernardino diocese from its erection on 7/14/78.
Retired: Resigned 11/9/95 and was said to be seeking laicization; retirement benefits began 1/10/03.
Charles F. Buddy was bishop of San Diego 1936-1966
Francis J. Furey was co-adjutor bishop 1963-1966
|5/12/64||St. John of the Cross||Lemon Grove||CA||Priests were Msgr. John W. McDonagh, Rev. George J. Lambert, and Rev. Peadar Brennan||San Diego diocese. School had 740 pupils.|
Francis J. Furey was bishop 1966-1969
|10/4/67||St. Francis de Sales||Riverside||CA||Priests were Msgr. Peter Lynch (dean), Rev. Peadar Brennan, and Rev. Joseph Halter||San Diego diocese, in territory that would become San Bernardino diocese. Elementary school had 410 pupils. High school had 243 pupils.|
|10/4/67||1/23/69||Sacred Heart (Ocean Beach )||San Diego||CA||Priests were Msgr. Francis Dillon, Rev. Peadar Brennan, and (in residence) Rev. Alphonsus Moloney||San Diego diocese. School had 356 pupils|
Leo T. Maher was bishop 1969-1990
|6/5/69||St. Mary Magdalene (Clairemont)||San Diego||CA||Priests listed in the 1969 Directory were Rev. Daniel O'Donoghue, Rev. William Wilson, and Rev. Alphonsus D. Ryan; Brennan was transferred too late to be listed, and then transferred too early to be listed here in the next Directory||San Diego diocese. School had 722 pupils.|
|6/5/69||5/1/72||Our Lady of Grace||El Cajon||CA||Priests were Msgr. Thomas Moloney, Rev. Denis Henry, Rev. Peadar Brennan||San Diego diocese. School had 423 pupils.|
|5/1/72||1974||St. Thomas Indian Mission||
This is in the far southeastern corner of the diocese and the state, across the border from Mexico and across the Colorado River from Yuma AZ.
|CA||Sole priest and pastor||San Diego diocese. The Fort Yuma Indian School is next to St. Thomas Indian Mission.|
|5/1/72||1974||St. Mary's||Winterhaven||CA||Pastor and sole priest.||San Diego diocese. This mission is listed in the Official Catholic Directory. San Diego diocese. Mission of St. Thomas Indian Mission.|
Phillip F. Straling was first bishop of San Bernardino 1978-1995
Pastor and sole priest.
Straling received an "extremely generous gift" from Brennan in 1979, during his assignment at this parish.
|San Diego diocese, in territory that became the San Bernardino diocese in 1978. No school. Other parish in town, St. Joseph's, had school with 314 pupils.|
|10/21/79||12/81||Court Our Lady of Fatima, #1387||Chaplain||Assignment confirmed by Straling.|
|6/13/80||Catholic Daughters of America||Junior State Chaplain|
|4/15/82||10/10/88||St. Francis of Assisi||
Brennan had a child with a woman in the parish in 1985. The woman's husband complained to Brennan, Bishop Straling, and Pope John Paul II. The Vatican Secretary of State replied, Straling's attorney claimed the diocese was not liable for what Brennan did in his off-hours, and Brennan remained pastor at La Quinta after time away in Hawaii and Ireland. When the woman became pregnant again in 1988 and threatened a lawsuit, Brennan was removed on 10/10/88. The husband sent his letters to the USCCB, but Straling rebuffed their interest. The second child died as an infant on 3/26/89. The woman also pursued a canonical suit, retaining a canon lawyer, Rev. Ingels, later himself accused of sexually abusing children. (See his letter to Bishop Straling, and Straling's reply.)
Founding pastor and sole priest.
For the situation at the parish, the husband's letter to Brennan is important. See also an exchange in 1985 between a concerned parishioner and Straling, and see also Straling's 1987 letters to Brennan (personal and official) and to an important parishioner. Brennan's fund-raising abilities were valued by the diocese.
For Brennan's career as a higher priority than the woman or the children, see Straling's 10/14/88 letter.
|San Bernardino diocese.|
Poway is a small town northeast of San Diego and somewhat remote, at the western edge of Sycamore Canyon County Park and Dos Picos County Park. Poway is in the San Diego diocese, and the transfer to another diocese (San Bernardino and San Diego were now separate dioceses) would have required arrangments. Those documents are not in the file as released.
|CA||Priests listed in the 1989 Directory are Msgr. Joseph L. Finnerty, Rev. Gerald Will (St. Louis), and (in residence) Rev. Daniel Finn (Chicago). We know Brennan was sent here, based on Bishop Straling's 10/14/88 letter.||San Diego diocese. School had 316 pupils.|
|2/10/89||4/25/89||St. Joseph's||Big Bear Lake||CA||
Brennan was a supply priest here, but it is not clear whether he lived in Big Bear Lake, or continued to live in the Poway rectory (a 130-mile trip each way), or lived closer to Big Bear Lake.
Shortly after Brennan's stint, Rev. Paul Shanley was assigned at Big Bear Lake.
was for Brennan to work in Big Bear Lake until 6/30/89, but after two months,
he was moved out of state to New Mexico (see next entry) "until
such time as the legal issues, regarding patrimony
of the child are resolved." Straling was informed of a settlement in 7/89.
Servants of the Paraclete
|Albuquerque||NM||Patient||Facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete in the Santa Fe archdiocese. See Straling's letters to Brennan and to McNamara, head of the Servants of the Paraclete.|
|7/22/89||9/1/91||St. Pius||Redwood City||CA||Priests were Msgr. Peter J. Armstrong, Rev. Robert W. McElroy, and Rev. Peter J. Brennan (a slight name change, likely to disguise the appointment). The assignment to the San Francisco diocese was approved by Archbishop Quinn.||
San Francisco archdiocese.
Brennan "attend[ed] various seminars and workshops, including the
key lectures at the
Gerald R. Barnes became the diocesan administrator on 3/21/95 and has been bishop since 12/29/03.
On 11/2/95, a parish whistleblower reported to then-Auxiliary Bishop Barnes and Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the Vatican's Pro-Nuncio in the U.S., that Brennan had fathered a third child. See Brennan's resignation, his draft announcement, and the announcement text. Barnes also had questions about the finances of the parish.
|CA||Founding pastor and sole priest.||San Bernardino diocese.|
|1/10/03||Bishop Barnes began to pay retirement benefits to Brennan at age 65.|
Source: Brennan file as released in accordance with the bankruptcy settlement; Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1962-1995).
Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.
This assignment record collates Brennan's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory and his personnel file as released. We make no representation regarding the truth of the paternity allegations we report. We remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.
This assignment record was last updated on 10/31/10.