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Testimony: In 2008, priest admitted to sleepover, letting teen look at porn

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 7:42 PM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Presiding priest over 2008 canonical trial of Rev. James Brennan reads testimony
  • Brennan is accused of attempted rape in 1996 incident with 14-year-old male
  • In 2008, Brennan testified that his actions were "borderline" inappropriate
  • Brennan is of two Philadelphia priests on trial in landmark child sexual abuse case

Philadelphia (CNN) -- One of the two Philadelphia priests on trial in a landmark child sexual abuse and conspiracy case admitted in 2008 that he allowed a 14-year-old to view pornography and sleep in the same bed with him during an overnight visit in 1996, according to testimony given to church investigators.

Monsignor Kevin Quirk, the presiding priest over the 2008 canonical trial of Rev. James Brennan, read Brennan's testimony into the court record on Monday. Brennan is accused of attempted rape in the 1996 incident and is currently standing trial in criminal court.

"Did I allow it happen? Yes. I take full responsibility for it," Brennan testified in 2008, adding that the behavior was "borderline" inappropriate. Brennan denied touching the 14-year-old or exposing himself, according to the 2008 testimony that Quirk recounted for the court on Monday.

"I was just devastated," Brennan testified in 2008 regarding the allegations of sexual abuse. This is the first time the 2008 canonical testimony has been revealed to the public.

Also on trial is Monsignor William Lynn, the first high-ranking church figure charged with child endangerment. He's accused of knowingly transferring priests from parish to parish despite allegations of sexual abuse of minors, including Brennan.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

A number of alleged victims of clergy abuse have testified since the criminal trial began March 26. Both Brennan and Avery's accusers have claims that fall within the statute of limitations.

Brennan's accuser, now in his 30s, was a former altar boy who cried on the stand weeks earlier as he described the incident with Brennan. The man, a former Marine, was discharged because of mental health issues.

"I was a little boy. I didn't know what to do," the man testified through sobs.

Former Marine testifies against Brennan

The witness testified before Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina that Brennan, who he described as a close family friend considered to be like an uncle, viewed online sex-chat rooms with him and suggested they masturbate together before insisting the witness sleep with the priest in the same bed.

"I was scared. I was afraid that if I said no, he'd kill me or something," he said, crying.

The witness testified that while in bed together and wearing only T-shirts and boxers, Brennan hugged him from behind and pressed his genitals against his buttocks.

He said he prayed he would fall asleep and recalled wetting himself but does not remember anything after that.

During the 2008 testimony that was recounted Monday, Brennan repeated denied having any physical contact with the 14-year-old, in what may be the closest jurors get to hearing directly from the priest other having him on the witness stand.

"No, nothing happened physically between us -- nothing," Brennan testified.

Brennan was removed from active ministry in 2006, after the witness first came forward with his allegations.

During cross-examination, Brennan's attorney, William Brennan, no relation, asked Quirk whether he was aware of the sole alleged victim that came forward despite the archdiocese's making the allegations public via "television, newspapers and smoke signals."

Quirk, who answered in the affirmative, was ordered to testify earlier this month by a West Virginia judge who noted he was a "necessary and material witness," according to court documents obtained by CNN.

Two grand jury reports accused the archdiocese of failing to investigate claims of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The 2011 report led to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office criminally charging four Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care, while Lynn was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children.

Days before the trial began March 26, defrocked priest Edward Avery of the Philadelphia Archdiocese pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of child after admitting that he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-1999 school year.

Priest's guilty plea throws wrinkle into trial

Avery, 69, was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years.

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