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Priest testifies in sex abuse case

May 1, 2012
The Herald-Star

PHILADELPHIA - A man accusing a priest of sexual assault previously dropped a separate allegation against the same priest, the judge in an internal Catholic church trial testified Monday.

Monsignor Kevin Quirk of Wheeling, a canon lawyer who presided over the Rev. James Brennan's 2008 church trial, took the stand Monday in Brennan's criminal priest-abuse trial in Philadelphia.

Quirk, an aide to the Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, detailed allegations that Brennan sexually assaulted a 14-year-old during a 1996 sleepover at the priest's apartment.

Quirk spent about four hours on the witness stand Monday, reading Brennan's testimony from the canon trial into the record. The outcome of the church trial is not yet clear, but the 48-year-old Brennan remains a priest.

Brennan admitted during the canon trial that he showed the 14-year-old pornography on his computer and that they slept in the same bed, but he denied any physical contact with the juvenile.

The sleepover took place in Chester County, Pa., while the priest was on leave. He admitted to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that another teen lived with him for several months at the family's request.

The late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua noted in a file that Brennan sought leave in 1996 to deal with his own childhood sexual abuse. Brennan later denied saying that he had been sexually abused.

He has pleaded innocent to the criminal charges, which include attempted rape.

On cross-examination by defense attorney William Brennan, who is not related to his client, Quirk said he never delved into the man's second allegation because the accuser withdrew that complaint. That involved an accusation that Brennan allegedly abused the teen - apparently in a garden shed - when he was performing court-ordered community service at the parish.

Calls for comment to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston were not immediately returned Monday.

Monsignor William Lynn, the archdiocese's longtime secretary for clergy, is on trial with Brennan, charged with endangering children by leaving dozens of accused priests in ministry.

The trial, which focuses on alleged wrongdoings in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is in its sixth week.

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