Priest’s accuser dies

The wit­ness against a 75-year-old Ro­man Cath­ol­ic priest ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a North­east al­tar boy died sud­denly, the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice an­nounced this af­ter­noon.

The 26-year-old man, who in Janu­ary had ac­cused the Rev. Robert Bren­nan of sexu­ally ab­us­ing him from 1998 to 2001, was found dead this week­end by Phil­adelphia po­lice de­tect­ives, ac­cord­ing to a DA’s of­fice news re­lease. The man, whose name has not been re­leased, died of an ac­ci­dent­al drug over­dose, ac­cord­ing to Marci A. Hamilton, one of his at­tor­neys.

“It is with great sad­ness that I have to an­nounce that the vic­tim in the rape and as­sault case against Robert Bren­nan passed away un­ex­pec­tedly,” stated Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams. “The dec­ades-long demons and scars the vic­tim in this case en­dured ended this week­end when he was found dead by Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­tect­ives. I can not say enough about the bravery this young man dis­played in com­ing for­ward to bring these crimes to light. This young man’s cour­age should serve as an in­spir­a­tion to us all.”

Tasha Jamer­son, the DA’s spokes­wo­man, said the of­fice was not re­leas­ing the man’s name, where he was found and any oth­er de­tails of his death.

The dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice is re­view­ing the case against Bren­nan and will make a de­cision on the pro­sec­u­tion some­time next week.

Bren­nan, who had served as as­sist­ant pas­tor of Re­sur­rec­tion of Our Lord par­ish in Rhawn­hurst, was ar­res­ted on Sept. 25 in Mary­land and brought back to Phil­adelphia two days later. He was charged with re­peatedly mo­lest­ing a par­ish al­tar boy from 1998 to 2001. The arch­diocese, which asked the Vat­ic­an to la­icize the priest, im­me­di­ately re­por­ted the al­leg­a­tions to au­thor­it­ies, Wil­li­ams said Sept. 26.

Bren­nan’s at­tor­ney, Tre­van Bor­um, said today he doesn’t know yet how the case would pro­ceed be­cause he has yet to see any evid­ence against his cli­ent. He said doesn’t get any evid­ence un­til after a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing. Bren­nan had been sched­uled for that hear­ing today, but it was con­tin­ued to Nov. 14.

“This brave man cour­ageously ex­posed a child-mo­lest­ing cler­ic and pro­tec­ted oth­ers. He fought hard to get his day in court,” Kar­en Polesir, of the Phil­adelphia chapter of the Sur­viv­ors Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests, said of the de­ceased wit­ness. “Now, that day will nev­er come. We are deeply grate­ful for his bravery and deeply saddened for his friends and fam­ily. Now more than ever, it’s cru­cial that every vic­tim, wit­ness and whis­tleblower come for­ward and work with law en­force­ment. Chil­dren are safe when pred­at­ors are be­hind bars.

“He was a won­der­ful young man who had got­ten his life to­geth­er to pur­sue justice,” said Hamilton, one of his at­tor­neys. “I thought he would change the world with his bravery.”

Wil­li­ams said the boy re­por­ted Bren­nan began mo­lest­ing him when he was 11 and in the sixth grade. The sexu­al ab­use al­legedly con­tin­ued in the Castor and Shelmire church’s sac­risty, Bren­nan’s rect­ory bed­room, a par­ish stor­age area and in a theat­er and didn’t end un­til the boy was 14, Wil­li­ams said.

Bren­nan was held in Cur­ran-From­hold Cor­rec­tion­al Fa­cil­ity on State Road from Sept. 27 with bail set at $1 mil­lion un­til that bail was slashed to $50,000 by Judge Paula Patrick on Oct. 8. As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Evan­gelia Manos had de­scribed Bren­nan as a flight risk. Al­though Patrick re­duced the priest’s bail, she ordered him to sur­render his pass­port.

Bren­nan has been charged with rape, in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course and ag­grav­ated in­de­cent as­sault.

The priest, who was prom­in­ently men­tioned in the 2005 Phil­ad­elphia Grand Jury re­port on sexu­al ab­use by Phil­adelphia’s Cath­ol­ic clergy, had been liv­ing in a private home in Perry­ville, Md., when he was ar­res­ted.

In a state­ment re­leased Sept. 25, the Phil­adelphia arch­dio­cese said Bren­nan, who was or­dained in 1964, was re­moved from act­ive min­istry in Septem­ber 2005 after the grand jury re­port was is­sued.

“He has not been per­mit­ted to func­tion as a priest any­where since that time. A ca­non­ic­al pro­cess aimed at his la­iciz­a­tion is in pro­gress with the Holy See,” the arch­dio­cese stated. The arch­dio­cese said the al­leged “wrong­ful con­duct” oc­curred more than a dozen years be­fore Bren­nan was re­moved from min­istry.

Ac­cord­ing to arch­dioces­an spokes­man Ken Gav­in, the arch­diocese has no con­trol over the length of the pro­cess to la­icize Bren­nan. Since that has not con­cluded, Bren­nan tech­nic­ally re­mains a priest, and the arch­diocese is re­quired un­der church law to provide him with pen­sion be­ne­fits. However, Gav­in said the arch­diocese is not in­volved in and won’t be pay­ing for Bren­nan’s de­fense.

The church was aware of Bren­nan and claims about his con­duct long be­fore that, said Daniel F. Mo­n­ahan, a Mal­vern at­tor­ney who rep­res­ents two men who also say Bren­nan mo­les­ted them.

Ac­cord­ing to a chro­no­logy of Bren­nan’s ca­reer that Mo­n­ahan re­leased yes­ter­day, the priest has been ac­cused of “in­ap­pro­pri­ate or sus­pi­cious be­ha­vi­or” with more than 20 boys.

“The Phil­ad­elphia Grand Jury Re­ports [in 2005 and 2011) and the tri­al of Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn re­vealed that the arch­dio­cese was aware of Bren­nan’s pred­at­ory be­ha­vi­or as early as 1988,” at­tor­ney Marci Hamilton stated in a Sept. 26 email to the North­east Times.

Ac­cord­ing to ma­ter­i­al the dis­trict at­tor­ney re­leased in late Septem­ber, the arch­dio­cese years ago had been no­ti­fied that Bren­nan had in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched sev­er­al boys, many from par­ishes to which he had been as­signed. Most of the com­plaints the arch­dio­cese had re­ceived, the DA said, were based on ob­ser­va­tions of arch­dio­ces­an em­ploy­ees — “fel­low priests, prin­cipals and rect­ory work­ers.”

Wil­li­ams said the arch­dio­ces­an su­per­vi­sors “ig­nored these re­ports for over a dec­ade.”

The dis­trict at­tor­ney said Bren­nan was “merely re­cycled to an­oth­er as­sign­ment around un­sus­pect­ing chil­dren and par­ents.” ••

John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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