Accuser Describes Attack by Priest in Pennsylvania

By Jon Hurdle
New York Times
April 5, 2012

The Rev. James J. Brennan

A 30-year-old man said Wednesday that a priest’s actions took the man down a path that included more than a decade of drug and alcohol abuse, multiple criminal convictions and three suicide attempts.

The accuser, a former Marine, took the witness stand during the second week of a landmark trial of two Roman Catholic priests. One of them, the Rev. James J. Brennan, is charged with trying to rape the accuser in 1996, when he was 14.

In sometimes tearful testimony, the man said the assault took place at Father Brennan’s apartment in West Chester, Pa., during an overnight stay.

The alleged attack, and an occasion three years later when the accuser said Father Brennan exposed himself, combined to traumatize the man, he said, and led to a pattern of behavior that also included getting discharged from the Marine Corps and using drugs in an attempt to be rid of the pain of what he endured.

The man said his subsequent crimes, including forgery, identity theft and filing false reports to the police, were all linked to his drug habit, which included the use of opiates and marijuana.

“I have been battling every day of my life to get these visions and this feeling out of my body, and they won’t leave,” he told a jury.

Father Brennan, 49, is among the priests named in a scathing grand jury report last year alleging widespread abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Father Brennan’s co-defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, 61, is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment, accused of allowing priests to remain in positions where they were able to abuse children in their care.

As secretary for clergy at the archdiocese, Monsignor Lynn was responsible for investigating reports of abuse. Prosecutors say Monsignor Lynn failed to stop the abuse; his lawyers argue that decisions to leave abusive priests in position were the responsibility of more senior church officials, including Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who has since died.

The abuse described before the court on Wednesday occurred more recently than other, decades-old cases identified by the grand jury.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the accuser said Father Brennan had been like an “uncle” to him and his siblings and was a frequent visitor to the family home in Newtown, Pa., where the priest would drink “heavily” with the man’s parents, especially his mother.

The accuser asserted that on the night the abuse occurred, Father Brennan masturbated and persuaded him to sleep first on a couch in the priest’s bedroom, and then in his bed. There the priest tried to rape him in a position he described as “spooning,” he said.

The next day, the accuser said, he told his mother and his older brother, and his parents had a talk with the priest with a view to settling the matter.

Although Father Brennan then visited the family’s home less frequently, the relationship continued, and led to the man’s taking a ride on the priest’s motorcycle sometime later.

“Why in heaven’s name would you get on a motorcycle with Father Brennan?” asked the priest’s lawyer, William Brennan, who is not related.

“Because my mom and dad told me everything would be O.K.,” the man told the court.

Mr. Brennan, the lawyer, questioned whether the alleged abuse was solely responsible for the man’s problems. “There is no other event or series of events in your life other than spooning?” he asked.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ended Wednesday’s hearing early after the man became tearful and accused Mr. Brennan of being too aggressive in his questioning.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.