This afternoon, the archdiocese of Philadelphia released a statement announcing that Frs. Robert Brennan and John Mulholland were "relieved of their assignments," effective yesterday. "Until such time as a permanent, long-term plan can be determined," the statement read, "both priests will remain without assignments."
A Friday Inquirer report highlighted the situations of the two men:
Well, they're both out now.
[Brennan and Mulholland] are chaplains at retirement homes in the archdiocese, celebrating Masses and ministering to residents.
According to the report, released Wednesday, church officials were first told in 1968 about Mulholland's "sadomasochistic practices with boys" - which involved talk of bondage and eating human waste - and took no action.
Similarly, repeated complaints about Brennan's "inappropriate or suspicious behavior" with more than 20 boys dating to 1988 prompted a round of therapy - but he was then sent back to parish work with no warning to parishioners, the grand jury found.
Although the U.S. Catholic Church has vowed to remove any known abuser from active ministry as part of its 2002 child-protection charter, archdiocese officials maintain that these two priests are not clear-cut abusers under the special set of church laws known as the Essential Norms.
The archdiocese's sex-abuse review board took up Mulholland's case in 2004 and recommended no action. It found that a letter Mulholland wrote to a boy in his parish was "quite disturbing in its language regarding issues of power, descriptions of human excrement and use of restraint," but did not "fall under the definition of sexual abuse as contained in the Essential Norms."
The review board also found that Brennan's actions did not violate the Essential Norms, even though the church's former secretary for clergy, Msgr. William J. Lynn, told him in a June 2004 letter: "There is convincing evidence that over a number of years you have engaged in behavior that is entirely inappropriate and unacceptable for a priest."
I'm also told that Cardinal Rigali has called a meeting with the priests of the archdiocese for tomorrow. More to come on that....