Abuse Victim Died before Seeing Justice in Case against Priest
October 31, 2013
Two weeks shy of his 27th birthday, the tortured life of Sean Patrick McIlmail reportedly ended with an accidental drug overdose.
The Montgomery County resident died four days shy of facing in courtthe man allegedly responsible for his torment.
The preliminary hearing of the Rev. Robert L. Brennan was scheduled for Oct. 17 in Philadelphia on charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent assault for allegedly abusing McIlmail between 1998 and 2001 when he was an altar boy at Resurrection of Our Lord parish in Northeast Philadelphia. He was 11 when Brennan allegedly began assaulting him.
According to one of two Philadelphia Grand Jury reports on clerical sexual abuse, officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua were notified that Brennan had sexually or inappropriately touched more than 20 boys. One of those officials was the Rev. Monsignor William Lynn who was secretary of clergy for most of Bevilacqua’s tenure from 1988 to 2003.
On June 22, 2012 a Philadelphia jury found Lynn guilty of one felony count of endangering the welfare of children. Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
During Lynn’s trial, jurors learned that the monsignor had assembled a “secret file” of known or suspected pedophile priests that, in 1994, Bevilacqua ordered shredded. Prosecutors got to see the list after a copy of it was found in an archdiocesan safe. In December 1993, despite warnings from doctors that Brennan exhibited evidence of pedophilia and presented a future risk to children, Lynn recommended Brennan be assigned to Resurrection of Our Lord parish.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that in testimony before the Grand Jury, even Philadelphia Bishop Edward Cullen acknowledged that assigning Brennan to Resurrection and leaving him there without restriction, endangered the parish’s children. Sean McIlmail was one of those children. He allegedly endured sexual abuse by Brennan for three years in the church sacristy, in the priest’s rectory bedroom, in a storage area on parish property and in a movie theater.
In January, six months after Lynn’s conviction, McIlmail garnered the courage to tell archdiocesan officials of his alleged abuse by Brennan. They followed 2002 church policy and immediately informed the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office of McIlmail’s allegations. Unlike the complaints of other alleged victims, his fell within Pennsylvania’s expanded statute of limitations for sexual assault established in 2006.
Brennan, who had been taken out of active ministry by archdiocesan officials in 2005, was living in Maryland where he was arrested by Perryville police a month ago before his extradition to Philadelphia.
“A serial abuser is now behind bars thanks to the brave actions of this young man,” Williams said on Sept. 26.
Last Wednesday, Williams announced that he would be withdrawing the charges against the 75-year-old priest who once served on the staffs of St. Pius X Church in Marple, St. George’s in Glenolden, Archbishop Prendergast High School for Girls in Upper Darby and the Mid-Delaware County Catholic Youth Organization. The district attorney lost his star witness when McIlmail, who reportedly struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for many years, died.
Williams, with McIlmail’s family by his side, did once again applaud McIlmail’s courage. Indeed, Sean Patrick McIlmail’s death is not in vain. Because of his bravery, other sexual abuse victims may be inspired to come forward and prevent their predators from destroying the lives of any more children.