A former Northeast assistant parish pastor won’t be tried on charges he molested a young altar boy more than a decade ago.
During a mid-November preliminary hearing, the district attorney’s office will withdraw charges against the Rev. Robert Brennan. That Nov. 14 hearing will be a formality. On Oct. 23, District Attorney Seth Williams announced his decision not to pursue the case against the 75-year-old priest. The reason was simple — Sean McIlmail, 26, the main witness against the former assistant pastor of Resurrection of Our Lord parish in Rhawnhurst — died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month.
Although the criminal case is going away, Brennan still might have further legal troubles if McIlmail’s family decides to sue him. And, the Vatican is considering booting him out of the priesthood. Brennan has not been allowed an active ministry for years, but his “laicization” would mean a loss of his pension, according to a spokesman for Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic archdiocese.
In January, McIlmail brought his accusations to the city’s Roman Catholic archdiocese that Brennan repeatedly molested him starting when he was 11 years old, Williams said Sept. 26. He added the Church immediately reported the allegations to authorities. Brennan was arrested in Perryville, Md., Sept. 25 after McIlmail agreed to press charges against him.
McIlmail, who lived in Montgomery County, was found dead of an accidental drug overdose in Kensington on Oct. 12. In late September, Williams had said Brennan had sexually abused McIlmail in the Rhawnhurst parish from 1998 to 2001.
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.
The priest had been charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent assault. Brennan’s attorney, Treven Borum, said his client was innocent of the charges.
“He is obviously very sad that somebody died,” Borum said of his client in an Oct. 23 phone interview. “But he is disappointed he did not get a chance to vindicate his name after a full trial with all of the evidence coming to light.”
McIlmail’s attorney, Marci Hamilton, said she wasn’t surprised the DA decided not to pursue its case against Brennan. “The case had not progressed far enough that it could proceed without Sean,” she said.
She said her client had battled drug addiction since he was 18 and really was trying to get his life together. He really wanted to get justice from Brennan, she said.
“As we have maintained since Father Brennan’s arrest, the allegations brought against him are not true,” Borum stated on Oct. 17, after the district attorney announced its main witness against the priest had died. “They came 13 years after they allegedly occurred and, at the time these alleged incidents were reported, the accuser had already hired an attorney to sue the archdiocese at the conclusion of the criminal case.”
Other allegations against Brennan were prom-in-ently men-tioned in the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury report on sexual abuse by Philadelphia’s Catholic clergy, and he was soon after removed from active ministry by the archdiocese.
“He has not been permitted to function as a priest anywhere since that time. A canonical process aimed at his laiciztion is in progress with the Holy See,” the arch-diocese stated, adding it was obliged to make pension payments to Brennan because he is a priest until the Vatican says he isn’t. A spokesman had said the archdiocese was not involved in Brennan’s defense. ••
Were you abused?
The District Attorney has a special phone line and email address for all victims of sexual abuse and/or assault. If you are a victim, you should contact authorities immediately.
The phone number at the DA’s Office is 215-686-8019, and the email is email@example.com.
There are also other agencies in the city that victims can call:
The Philadelphia Police Department 215-686-TIPS
Department of Human Services 215-683-4347
Philadelphia Children’s Alliance 1-800-932-0313
Women Organized Against Rape 215-985-3333
Congreso De Latinos Unidos 215-763-8870
Children’s Crisis Treatment Center 215-496-0707