Four priests and a Catholic school teacher charged in last month’s sex-abuse cover-up scandal appeared in a packed courtroom yesterday to discuss a motion to proceed to trial without a preliminary hearing. That won’t be decided until March 25 as the sides and Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes sparred over whether the archdiocese worked out a deal with one priest to “hopefully” reimburse his legal fees if found not guilty.
Accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996, Father James Brennan initially claimed he couldn’t afford a defense attorney. When attorneys Charles Peruto Jr. and Richard DeSipio said Brennan retained their services, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes lit into Brennan, who later said his brother loaned him money.
The archdiocese is funding the defense of Monsignor William Lynn, the first American church official accused of covering up sex abuse claims against priests.
Yelling at times, Hughes said such a deal could prevent Brennan from acting in his own self-interest if that meant implicating anybody else tied to the archdiocese. “This is a significant, significant issue,” Hughes said to Brennan, who she ordered to reimburse the cost of a public defender who worked on the case briefly. “You will live and die by your decision.”
Peruto said an archdiocese representative was in the courtroom. Having said they were still thinking about it on Thursday, he learned when he got back to his office that they decided against it “because of that fiasco which would have scared anybody off. It stripped him of the ability to defend himself.”
Parishioners get no info
Clergy-abuse victim Barbara Dorris stood outside the courthouse yesterday with a Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sign and a photograph of herself as a youngster, when she says she was victimized.
“The parishioners are getting no information. That says it all. Cardinal [Justin] Rigali has failed them once again,” said Dorris, who protested outside Saint Adalbert Church in Port Richmond on Sunday. “The victims and parishioners are in great pain. The archdiocese could be doing something to help them, but it’s just business as usual with secrets being kept.”