In a tale of two realities, yesterday was one for the books in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In the reality that most of us share, federal agents arrested alleged predator Robert Brennan at his home in Perryville, Maryland.
Brennan is one of the most notorious accused abusers in the Archdiocese and has previously eluded conviction. The Archdiocese did a good job of shielding him for years using a favorite from their playbook – the tried and not-so true parish shuffle. They simply swapped him out to a new parish and tossed some “treatment” into the mix.
Of course that meant children were repeatedly exposed to potential predators. But the heat of the Grand Jury Report became too much and Brennan was removed from ministry in 2005 and laicized in 2017.
In 2013, Brennan was charged with sexually abusing a victim whose case fell within the statute of limitations. The charges were dropped when the young man passed away shortly before trial. Brennan returned to his life of leisure in Maryland.
But now Brennan is charged with lying to the FBI during an on-going investigation of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Brennan claimed he didn’t know Sean McIlmail despite the existence of a photo of the two that’s been published on multiple news sites for the past 6 years. Maybe he confused the FBI interrogation with an Archdiocesan inquiry – where such a denial would have landed him a blessing and a transfer.
The news of Brennan’s arrest broke midday and was especially significant as it’s the second arrest within a week. Francis X. Trauger, a former priest whose name appeared on the infamous shredded memo list, was arrested earlier in the week.
The alleged abuse of Trauger’s victims (two altar boys at St. Michael the Archangel Parish) and the victim who died in the Brennan case, took place AFTER the Archdiocese knew about each priest and opted to coverup.
On another plane of reality, it was business as usual for the Archdiocese. There was no press release about Brennan’s arrest, instead a reminder to pray for the victims of the hurricane. Maybe they were too busy getting ready for the papal honors Archbishop Chaput would bestow to chosen laity from the Philadelphia area.
Leslie Davila, director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection/Victim Assistance of the Archdiocese, was listed in the papal honors category of the Dames and Knights in the order of St. Gregory the Great. Al Toczydlowski, the former Delegate of Investigations was listed as an honoree. Al retired as Delegate in March 2018, he has been appointed to the Archdiocese Review Board.
While Chaput was bestowing the honors at the Cathedral, just a few blocks away at FBI headquarters men and women were working to bring justice to the survivors of clergy sex abuse. Their work will protect the children of the Archdiocese. There’s no pomp and circumstance – just the desire to do the right thing for victims of crime and prevent more children from being harmed.
Perryville or Bust
While awaiting trial, Robert Brennan will likely return to a home in Perryville, Maryland that he co-owns with a retired priest in good standing from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. In August of 2018, when we became aware that this priest owned a home with the accused child predator, we contacted both the Archdiocese and the parish to express concern. Leslie Davila, director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, never replied to our email. Leslie has not replied to any of our victim or child -related emails since July of 2018.
Essentially, the Archdiocese gave a shoulder shrug to one of their priests owning a home with someone they deemed unsuitable for ministry because of child abuse.
We spent months trying to get someone to care enough to alert parents at Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford, PA that one of their weekend assistant priests owns a home with a suspected child predator.
After we contacted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Cardinal O’Malley’s office in Boston, the priest’s name disappeared from the parish bulletin in November 2018. Neither had any jurisdiction over the situation, but our gut tells us that once we went outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia it got action.
I guess we’re crazy Catholic Moms causing a ruckus about a priest owning a home with a former priest who abused possibly as many as 20 children.
Brennan’s arrest brought the first charges filed in the federal investigation of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.