A 30-year-old man who says a priest abused him as a teenager underwent aggressive cross-examination on Wednesday, including on the fact that he has a criminal history that includes a conviction of making a false report to the police, identity theft and forgery.
The man’s cross-examination is slated to start again today. It ended shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday as he appeared to get upset.
The man also was asked why he testified during a canonical trial that he didn’t remember what happened in a later encounter with the priest. M.B. testified during the criminal proceeding Wednesday that the priest had exposed himself to him during that meeting. The canonical trial was held to consider whether the defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, should be defrocked.
M.B. is one of the key witnesses for the prosecution. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office says Monsignor William Lynn endangered the welfare of M.B. and one other youth and conspired with Brennan and another priest who already pled guilty to sexual abuse.
Lynn was in charge of investigating reports of sexual abuse by priests and making recommendations for the assignment of priests when he was the secretary for clergy for the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. The Legal is not publishing the full names of the alleged victims.
M.B. gave graphic testimony, repeatedly saying that the experience of sleeping in the same bed as the priest and having the priest’s penis pressed between his buttocks had sent him into a multiyear streak of using drugs, acting out and committing crimes.
M.B. also said that he was discharged from the Marine Corps because of mental health issues. He tried to commit suicide in 2002, 2006 and 2010, M.B. said.
M.B. said he reported the abuse to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2006 and the canonical trial was held in 2008.
M.B. said that he was telling the truth during the canonical trial because at the time he was questioning his sexuality and did not want to admit what had happened.
When defendant Brennan’s attorney, William J. Brennan, questioned how all of M.B.’s criminal history could have bene caused by being victimized by James Brennan, M.B. said that his doctors have told him that acting out is a way to numb pain and cover up shame.
The defense theory is that M.B. made up the entire incident, particularly because he has a civil lawsuit pending against James Brennan and the archdiocese.
M.B. said that James Brennan had become fast friends with his family, would come over on Friday nights and have drinks with his family, and would take his brother and him on golf outings.
“He was almost like an uncle figure,” M.B. said.
M.B. said he was molested by James Brennan only one time in the summer of 1996.
He was molested when he was staying at James Brennan’s apartment overnight ahead of a planned trip to the golf course the next day, M.B. said.
M.B., who said he was a scrawny 14-year-old at the time, said that he was eating his favorite kind of cereal at Brennan’s apartment when he made the shape of a penis out of the cereal as a joke.
M.B. testified that Brennan, who was on a leave of absence from the priesthood at the time, said to M.B., “‘If you want to stop this, we can stop this now.’”
M.B. said he didn’t know what he meant.
They went online on Brennan’s laptop and visited sexually oriented chatrooms, M.B. said. Brennan asked M.B. the size of his penis, M.B. testified, and after M.B.’s answer, Brennan said that his own penis was smaller.
M.B. sounded emotional as he described Brennan unbuttoning his pants and exposing his boxers.
M.B. said he excused himself to go to the bathroom, then told Brennan that he felt sick and that he wanted to go to bed.
When M.B. tried to sleep on the couch downstairs, Brennan said that he could sleep on the couch in his bedroom, M.B. testified.
When they were in the bedroom, Brennan was in one corner of the room masturbating with his back to M.B. and M.B. said he was in one corner of the room pretending to masturbate as well. But M.B. said he couldn’t get an erection. Brennan offered to help M.B. to become aroused, M.B. said.
Both were in T-shirts and boxers, M.B. said.
When M.B. said again that he wanted to go to bed, Brennan insisted that he sleep in the bed and not on the couch.
When asked by prosecutor Mark Cipolletti why he would sleep in the bed, M.B. choked up and said that he “was a little boy” and he thought Brennan would kill him or harm him. There was a snort of derision in the audience when M.B. said that.
M.B. then said he was lying on his left side and Brennan also lay down, put his arms around M.B. and spooned him.
“All I can remember is his penis between my buttocks,” M.B. said.
M.B. said he wet his pants and that he prayed to God that he would fall asleep.
During cross-examination, M.B. testified that there was blood when he had to go to the bathroom the next day.
M.B. said that the next thing he remembers is being down to the Jersey Shore with his mother and brother, telling them about the molestation.
M.B. testified he told his mother the details of going online into sex chatrooms and that Brennan made him sleep in the same bed. But he said he was too embarrassed to tell her about the details of the actual molestation.
“I was giggling,” M.B. said. “I was embarrassed.”
When cross-examination started by William Brennan, the attorney questioned how M.B. could not remember the time between the molestation and being at the shore.
M.B.’s psychiatrist told him the traumatic incident has “shut off the insignificant and the significant remains,” M.B. said.
William Brennan asked why M.B. went to serve community service required as part of a court sentence at a church site where James Brennan worked if James Brennan had abused him.
After the molestation, M.B. said his parents met with James Brennan, James Brennan told them something happened that shouldn’t have and that it wouldn’t happen again. His parents made him feel that it would be safe to be in touch with Brennan again, M.B. said. He also figured that serving community service under Brennan would be a cakewalk, M.B. said.
During one day of community service, M.B. said that he was walking into a shed to get a lawn mower when he saw Brennan standing with his hand on his exposed penis.
During William Brennan’s line of questioning, M.B. said his theory was that James Brennan was trying to have one last shot at having sex with him or was aroused at the thought of being caught by him in the shed.
While M.B. repeatedly complained about William Brennan’s style of questioning, there were a couple of moments of laughter Monday.
When M.B. described James Brennan lying in bed with him as spooning, William Brennan said he was an old guy and he didn’t know what spooning was.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who is presiding over the case, piped up and said she did know what spooning was. As laughter swelled in the courtroom, M.B. said: “You’ve got seven kids. You should know what spooning is.”
After William Brennan commented that M.B. was trying to come off as believable, M.B. responded: “I’m not trying to be believable. I am.”