OK, raise your hand if you have any desire at all to be part of the jury hearing what’s been called a “landmark clergy abuse case.”
As with most trials, the key elements are credibility. Witnesses, defendants, even attorneys are being eyed with some scrutiny.
However, this trial is very different in these respects: the defendants are Roman Catholic priests and the witnesses are victims of alleged abuse. Do you believe the priests or the victims of alleged horrific abuses? Either way you’re doomed. Who wouldn’t be expected to believe the words of a member of the clergy? Lying priests? And how about someone alleged to have been sexually assaulted as a young child by these priests? Who would make up such events?
Well, the doubters of both are saying that the priests are covering their hides by lying and the victims are lying to cash in…
Today, a 30-year-old former Marine testified that his life was ruined by one of the priests – the Rev. James Brennan. The man said he was a good child with a bright future until he was molested by a priest he described as a “sexual predator.”
According to the Associated Press, the man described a life of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide attempts and a criminal history including robbery and fraud that defined his life after what he testified was a sexual assault by Brennan.
The AP reported that Brennan is charged with raping the man when he was a 14-year-old boy in 1996. The man, who was discharged from the Marines because of mental health issues, wept as he testified about being molested at Brennan’s apartment in West Chester.
Brennan is on trial with Monsignor William Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly keeping predator priests in parish work. Both have pleaded not guilty, according to the AP story.
Several alleged victims of clergy abuse have taken the stand since the trial began March 26, but Brennan’s accuser is the first whose claim falls within the statute of limitations.
He testified Wednesday, said the AP, that Brennan was a family friend who frequently visited his home in suburban Philadelphia, a “drinking buddy” of his mother, a guy who rode a motorcycle and was like a cool uncle. He described his family as devout Roman Catholics who sent their children to parochial schools and faithfully attended Sunday Mass at St. Andrew Church in Newtown, where Brennan was assigned.
“When the collar came down, he was Jim. He was one of the guys,” the man testified.
He said that in the summer of 1996, Brennan took him to his apartment with a plan to watch movies in the evening and get up the next morning for a day of golfing. At the apartment, Brennan showed him online pornography, fondled himself then got into bed with him, the man testified.
“I was a little boy. I didn’t know what to do,” he said, sobbing.
Brennan’s lawyers say the accuser has a history of lying and has been in trouble with the law. The accuser testified during cross-examination that he has had psychological problems and grappled with substance abuse as a result of the molestation, according to the AP story.
So I ask you: who do you believe? Make yourself a juror and decide. If you believe the priest then you’re saying this victim is a liar. If you believe the victim then you’re sending an innocent man – a priest – to prison for a very long time.
It’s not a job I’d want anytime soon.
– Andy Hachadorian