Former Catholic priest and serial abuser pleads guilty to federal charges in Philadelphia

A defrocked Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Robert Brennan, pleaded guilty today in federal court to four counts of making false statements to the FBI. The 84 year old former cleric now lives in Maryland. Brennan was arrested on these charges in September 2019.

SNAP’s Board President Shaun Dougherty and SNAP's Communications Manager Mike McDonnell were present in the courtroom in support of the McIlmail family. The McIlmails lost their son Sean just days before Brennan's preliminary hearing on charges that he sexually abused Sean as a child.

Brennan’s guilty plea came with an agreement that the former priest serve five years’ probation, two of which will be on home monitoring by federal officers. Judge Anita B. Brody set the sentencing date for March 2022.

We know that there is no magic age at which a child abuser stops. In fact, when perpetrators are older, parents or youth-serving professionals may view them as less dangerous and be less vigilant. We believe that communities are safer because of the outcome of this case.

We are also relieved for the McIlmail family, who are ardent supporters of SNAP and SOL reform. While the terms of the sentence may not be the outcome that was hoped for, some level of justice has been served. Mike McIlmail, Sean’s father, told reporters outside the courthouse that he’d "rather see Brennan rot away behind bars."

SNAP Communication Manager Mike McDonnell said, “On behalf of the many survivors in Pennsylvania and our fellow SNAP members, I'm in awe of Mike and Debbie McIlmail and their family for always being present to support SNAP and allies alike in seeking truth and justice."

We hope that this news will show survivors that their outcries matter and will encourage victims, whether abused by Brennan or any other bishop, priest, deacon, brother, nun, or church staffer, to come forward and make a report to law enforcement. We also hope that those survivors will find healing and support from trusted therapists, friends, family, and support groups like ours.

CONTACT: Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communication Manager ([email protected]), 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)


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  • Michael McDonnell
    published this page in Media Statements 2021-11-10 17:05:55 -0600

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