The former assistant pastor of a Northeast Philadelphia Catholic parish has been arrested and charged with repeatedly molesting an altar boy over a three-year period.
The Rev. Robert L. Brennan sexually assaulted the boy from 1998 to 2001 while he was at Resurrection of Our Lord parish, located at Castor and Shelmire avenues in Rhawnhurst, District Attorney Seth Williams said today during a late-morning news conference.
The boy was 11 and in the parish school’s sixth grade when the molestations started, the DA said, and Brennan was 60.
The priest, who was prominently mentioned in the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, was arrested yesterday in Perryville, Md., where he lives in a private residence.
Brennan’s ministry has been restricted since 2005, Williams said. He has been charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent assault, the DA said.
Williams said a serial offender is now behind bars.
The victim, now 26 and no longer a Philadelphia resident, reported his abuse to the archdiocese in January, Williams said. The archdiocese immediately — that day — turned over the information to the DA’s office.
Williams praised the archdiocese for acting so quickly and said the cooperation his office got from the Philadelphia church represented a “sea change” in how such matters had been handled.
Williams also praised the victim for coming forward.
“A serial abuser is now behind bars because of the brave actions of this young man,” Williams said.
Brennan was expected to have an extradition hearing today in Cecil County, Md., Williams said.
The abuse occurred in the Northeast church’s sacristy, Brennan’s rectory bedroom, a storage area on parish property and in a movie theater, the DA said.
In a statement released today, the archdiocese said Brennan 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.
The church was aware of Brennan and claims about his conduct long before that, a lawyer for two men who also say Brennan molested them said yesterday.
“The archdiocese has known about this creep since 1988,” said Daniel F. Monahan, a Malvern attorney.
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.
Monahan and attorney Marci Hamilton have several civil suits filed by clerical abuse victims pending against the archdiocese.
“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,” Hamilton stated in an email to the Northeast Times today, “and that Monsignor Lynn knew this full well during his tenure and did nothing to protect children.”
Lynn, who investigated allegations against priests while the secretary for the clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was convicted of one count of child endangerment in 2012 for not keeping a priest who was a child molester away from children. His case currently is under appeal.
Williams said Lynn knew of Brennan, but can not be charged again with endangering children because the statute of limitations on that offense has run out.
The DA encouraged any victims of sexual abuse to contact his office. ••