Monday, June 11, 2012

A Jury Stuck On Father Brennan

Jurors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case Monday sent a few more questions to the judge that took a few more passes over well-plowed ground.

Jurors then followed up those questions by re-hearing a two-hour transcript of the 2008 church canonical trial of Father James J. Brennan read into the record back on April 30th by Msgr. Kevin Quirk. The transcript told the priest's version of the night he was accused of allegedly attempting to rape 14-year-old Mark Bukowski.

By day's end, the jurors seemed stuck on the Father Brennan case. Meanwhile, the judge appeared crabby, the prosecutors seemed edgy and the defense lawyers couldn't be blamed if they were daring to dream about a hung jury.

The first question the jurors asked Judge M. Teresa Sarmina was, does a person charged with endangering the welfare of children have to be engaging in criminal behavior?

In response, the judge offered the example of a person who doesn't feed his child for a day. That person may not guilty of a crime, the judge said. But if that person doesn't feed his child for say, three weeks, that same person may be guilty of murder.

So the judge's answer to the jury's question was, "It does not have to be, but it could be."

The second jury question posed to the judge was, does a person have to know that their conduct is criminal in order to be guilty of committing a crime? It's that old argument over whether ignorance of the law is any excuse. The judge's answer: No, a person does not have to know what they're doing is criminal in order to be guilty of committing a crime.

Both questions were interpreted by courtroom observers to pertain to the Brennan case, where the priest is charged with attempted rape, and endangering the welfare of a child. The jurors were thought to have decided the Brennan case last week, and were perceived as moving on to the more complicated case of Msgr. William J. Lynn. But Monday's questions appeared to show that the jury was, at least for the moment, still bogged down on Father Brennan.

If the first two questions the jurors asked appeared to hang on the Brennan case, the third question left no doubt. The jurors asked for a copy of the transcript of Msgr. Quirk's April 30th testimony, where he read into the record the transcript of the church's canonical inquest into the case against Father Brennan.

The judge said that jurors were not permitted to have copies of transcripts. Moments later, jurors requested that the transcript of Msgr. Quirk's testimony be read to them. So for two hours, the court reporter read back that transcript to jurors.

Before the read back, however, the judge griped about the tardiness of defense lawyers Thomas Bergstrom and William Brennan, who showed up a few minutes late when they were summoned to court to hear the jury's new questions. The judge  has advised lawyers in the case, and their clients, to hang out near the court, so that if the jury has a question, everybody can show up in Courtroom 304 within 15 minutes.

"We have a 15-minute rule," the judge reminded the defense lawyers. She said if the lawyers couldn't get to court on time, the other option was to require everyone to sit around the courtroom and wait for jury questions, without any option of leaving.

When the court reporter read back the 55-page transcript, jurors again heard Father Brennan's rambling account of horrific surgery that he had while he was in the seminary, and was found to have a large bone cyst on his sternum. The priest's medical ordeal was part of his testimony to Msgr. Quirk.

The priest recounted surgery where his entire sternum was removed, along with sections of his ribs, and large portions of chest muscle. The doctor who performed the surgery filled the hole in the priest's chest with a substance used to make bullet-proof vests. The doctor had to stretch muscle tissue from the priest's back and shoulders to compensate for the chest muscle the priest had lost. The surgery resulted in horrific pain and agony for the young Father Brennan, who was left with a concave chest. One wondered what effect the account of the priest's ordeal would have on jurors.

In the transcript, the priest also shared his personal story of being raised by an absentee father, and a  alcoholic, physically abusive mother.

By the time the court reporter got to the story of Mark Bukowski, some in the courtroom had forgotten that the boy's parents had originally asked the priest to take the boy for a weekend, because he was "behaving erratically," and the parents thought the priest could somehow divine what was wrong with their 14-year-old.

It's a continuing mystery in the Catholic church why husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, bring their intimate family problems to an emotionally stunted celibate in a collar, who usually doesn't have a clue what's it like to live in the real world, or have a relationship with another human being.

Father Brennan told Msgr. Quirk he thought it was odd that the first thing Mark Bukowski did when he showed up at the priest's apartment was take off his boxers, and run around the place in baggy gym shorts. The priest told the monsignor that the boy explained to him that his mother always let him run around like that at home.

The priest recounted how the boy jumped on the priest's laptop, and wanted to see "some really great porn sites." Father Brennan, fueled by three or four beers, then accompanied the boy to a couple of porn sites, before the priest decided it was time to tuck the lad in for the night in the priest's king-size bed.

"Why don't you take half the bed, and I'll take half the bed," the priest recalled saying. When they got in bed, both the priest and the boy were wearing t-shirts and shorts, Father Brennan told the monsignor. While in bed, the 14-year-old brought up the porn sites, and said he was upset that he did not get an erection while viewing them.

"Do you think you need help with that?" the priest testified he told the boy, meaning that perhaps he should see a doctor. The priest confided to the monsignor that before he went to sleep, "I'm thinking, what's wrong with this kid?"

The jury was probably thinking, what's wrong with this priest?

Bukowski's story is that Father Brennan restrained the boy with his arms, while he pressed his erect penis between the boy's buttocks.

But in the canonical trial, the priest denied touching the boy sexually -- "Absolutely not" or even holding him -- "Not that I recall," he said.

The priest told the monsignor he met with Mark Bukowski's parents at a hotel after the incident, and he thought they accepted his explanation that he had done nothing improper with the boy. Three years later, in 1999, the boy's parents again reached out to Father Brennan, when Mark Bukowski needed to perform community service after he got arrested. The priest arranged a gig where Bukowski mowed church lawns.

The parents also sought out the priest in 2004 after Mark Bukowski's father lost his job, and the family was looking for financial assistance.

But when Bukowski's tale of abuse finally emerged in 2006, "You may as well beat me over the head with a baseball bat," Father Brennan told Msgr. Quirk. "I had no clue."

After hearing Father Brennan's testimony again, it was hard not to disagree. Now the jury is struggling to figure out whether the clueless Father Brennan deserves to wind up in jail. It may take a while.


  1. The prosecution is nervous, but they shouldn't be, imho.

    I'm just guessing, but I think now this is all just a question of how many guilty verdicts there will be. Either most or all charges will come back guilty.


    1. A guilty verdict wouldn't be good for your pro-pedophile-priest book tour, huh, Dave?

      Of course, neither is the truth, which has come out in the trial, that Lynn, 2 bishops, and Cardinal Bevilacqua all intentionally hid 35 known pedophile priests from 1994 until last year. Now its just a matter of whether $11.6 million is enough money to save one known pedophile protector.

    2. You are living proof, Neil, that you can go to Harvard and have not a shred of honesty, decency, or integrity whatsoever.

    3. In reply to Neilallen's post: $11.6 million dollars will NOT be enough! I predict at least that much more will be spent on appeals, if and when (meaning in this life-time) Monsignor Lynn is found guilty! Had Archbishop Chaput been smart, he would have made his expensive attorneys agree to defending Lynn for FREE, in the event of a guilty verdict and an Appeals, but thankfully, he wasn't and (probably) didn't! I wonder what the good, Catholic people of Philly are going to say about footing the expenses of an Appeals trial?

    4. Really, Dave MediaReport?

      What did I say that didn't have a "shred of honesty, decency, or integrity whatsoever", or are you just lying, like they taught you in your Catholic schools.

    5. Who taught who to lie in Catholic schools? I must have been sick that day.
      As an atheist I think all religion's a lie but so what? That's my opinion. If you are passing yourself off as a victim and continually dumping on the lay Catholics responsibility for what their rulers have done. Your a provacatuer and no one should take you as representing victims in anyway. Honey your a bit of a mess.

  2. "It's a continuing mystery in the Catholic church why husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, bring their intimate family problems to an emotionally stunted celibate in a collar, who usually doesn't have a clue what's it like to live in the real world, or have a relationship with another human being."

    Answer is easy, it's free. No mystery at all. If Brennan was a real therapist, there would be no tumbling around in his bed or therapy at his house.... and it would cost his parents money. End of story.

    1. Not the complete truth. At one point in history, when the Catholic church could hide the truth, priests were trusted.

      That couldn't be further from the truth now, where they are seen as the despicable pedophiles and pedophile protectors that they are. And the church will spend $11+ million in legal fees to save one positively proven pedophile protector from jail.

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  4. Father Brennan, his defence clearly going for the sympathy vote.Poor father Brennan, a rotten childhood and such painful surgery . A despicable move on his part and his defence team to get him off.A ploy to play on the jury's sympathy and it looks like they are falling for it. What is reasonable doubt ? it is your conscience asking you if you can live with the decision you have made. Are the jury now thinking , poor man he has suffered so much what good would placing him in jail do ?


    In the transcript, the priest also shared his personal story of being raised by an absentee father, and a alcoholic, physically abusive mother.

    Poppycock...he wishes the jury to think of his childhood well I am thinking of the childhoods that were destroyed and so should the jury.

    1. "Soul-rape," raping the very core of one's being, soul body and spirit, destroys lives and often destroys the faith of entire families. Thankfully, we have a God of Mercy, who will not let the "Soul-rape" destroy one's eternity!

  5. Thank you for pointing out one of the most essential questions that pervade most of these priest abuse cases. Why are so many Catholic parents willing to shirk their parental responsibilities and shunt their children off to priests who know nothing about child-rearing?

    There are many cases in this country where Catholic parents appeared to be guilty of criminal neglect. Too many to continue overlooking it. To get to the bottom of what's gone wrong with childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, we must examine what's gone wrong with Catholic parenting.

    Is it possible that when parents bear children only because, in their own minds, they have no choice, the parents bear resentment about having to take care of all these children?

    No one wants to blame their parents for being too religious. But so many of these victims really have to examine the issue in order to figure out how they got tossed around like that. The saddest part of this trial was when Bukowski's mother went on the witness stand and forsook her son in order to throw a lob to the dashing priest. As I've said before, I think Bukowski's mother should be on trial here too.

    1. fear of hell? like every other christian denomination. and catholics were taught not to trust psychology, because the catholic church, and all religions, are masters of manipulation. it's like a magic trick. the priests are the magicians. when someone else shows you how the tricks are done the mystery is gone.

  6. Don't underestimate the power of brainwashing. Especially the type of unquestioning, cradle-to-grave indoctrination that was in full force until very recently (if it's not still going on). I grew up thinking that parish priests were rock stars. When a priest "adopts" a family like Brennan adopted the Bukowskis, a mother can hold her head up high when she goes to church, because her family is "special." That twisted sense of pride continues when a priest is seen visiting a family after he's been reassigned. This is why priests can abuse children and carry on affairs with multiple married women under the noses of everyone. They are little gods of their parishes, and expect to be lavished with spoils from the people they supposedly serve. Catholic people who would normally be suspicious of deviate behavior are trained to be blind to that same behavior when exhibited by a priest.

  7. . . . all of which goes to demonstrate how the complicated nature of the human psyche is informed and malformed by the positive and negative ontologies of the human condition. So, when complicated human psyches conflict, the resulting dynamic becomes a dissolute enigma of unmanageable judgmental proportions. This was no doubt one of the reasons Jesus declined the invitation to settle a dispute between two people by saying: “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?"

  8. "It's a continuing mystery in the Catholic church why husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, bring their intimate family problems to an emotionally stunted celibate in a collar, who usually doesn't have a clue what's it like to live in the real world, or have a relationship with another human being."

    Can you give priests and Catholics ANY credit? Lynn and Brennan and others may be guilty. Others ARE guilty. But emotionally stunted? The real world is, simply put, truth. Comments like these and those posted prove that you do not always live in the real world ... not EVERY priest and Catholic


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