Philly priest accused of raping altar boy

Photo provided by Philadelphia D.A. Office
Friday, September 27, 2013 - 9:00am

A Philadelphia priest who narrowly escaped prosecution during a recent clergy abuse scandal that rocked the city's archdiocese has been arrested on charges that include raping an altar boy.

In a grand jury presentation in 2005, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office revealed allegations against Father Robert Brennan, now 75, that included more than 20 alleged child sex abuse victims, according to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

All of the cases were beyond the statute of limitations, and Brennan was never charged in that case, Williams said at a press conference Thursday.

That investigation led to the June 2012 child endangerment conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, the vicar of clergy for the diocese. The conviction marked the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted of such a crime.

Williams said that Lynn would've faced additional charges in connection with this case but that he avoided prosecution by three months due to the statute of limitations.

In this new case, Brennan is charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and aggravated indecent assault in connection with alleged incidents that took place between 1998 and 2001 when the victim was 11 to 14 years old, according to Williams.

The allegations include digital penetration and oral sex.

He was arrested on September 25 in Maryland, according to a statement released by Williams' office.

"A serial abuser is now behind bars thanks to the brave actions of this young man," Williams said, adding that the young man was prompted to report the alleged abuse in the wake of Lynn's conviction.

Marci Hamilton represents the victim, now 26 years old, and two other alleged victims whose cases could not be prosecuted because they were beyond the statute of limitations.

The archdiocese stripped Brennan of most of his duties in September 2005, though he remained a priest.

The diocese said in a statement that Brennan's laicization is in progress with the Holy See, but did not provide a date when that process began or when Brennan would be formally defrocked.

The diocese says it has "cooperated fully" with the current investigation.

Williams commended the diocese for promptly reporting these most recent allegations.

According to a statement released by Williams' office, the victim reported the abuse to the diocese in January 2013 and it was immediately brought to the attention of authorities.

"It takes tremendous courage for any sexual assault victim to come forward and report the horrors he or she endured," the district attorney said.

Leigh Remizowski contributed to this report.

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