In the shame of the fathers

Fifteen local priests were named in a grand jury indictment alleging sexual abuse of hundreds of children. Two of the accused, previously assigned to Stella Maris, remained in active ministry until last week.

By Lorraine Gennaro
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Oct. 6, 2005

Share this Story:

The Rev. Robert Brennan, 67, is accused of molesting 20 boys.

The Rev. John H. Mulholland, 66, allegedly had a fetish for human feces and sadomasochism, with the latter detailed in letters to young boys, one of whom he nicknamed "Man of Steel."

Both served as assistant pastors at Stella Maris, 814 Bigler St., in the mid-1970s and late-1980s. And both were active priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese until Cardinal Justin Rigali relieved them of their assignments Sept. 25, days after a 418-page grand jury indictment identified Brennan and Mulholland among 63 priests accused of raping and molesting teenage boys and girls over three decades. The report also said there were more priests, as victims lodged complaints against 169 priests who had served in the archdiocese since 1967.

"Can you just imagine Jesus Christ condoning something like this? The Bible speaks of wolves in sheep's clothing, and if they [the priests] don't fit the description, I don't know what does," said Lucille Pandalino, a former Catholic who became a Jehovah's Witness in the 1950s.

Because the statute of limitations on child abuse has expired on these alleged crimes, the accused can not be tried.

Brennan and Mulholland were removed from their posts as chaplains at homes for the sick and elderly in West Chester and the Northeast, respectively. They were not defrocked, so technically they are still priests, said an archdiocese spokesperson.

The archdiocese released the following statement Sept. 26: "Rev. Robert L. Brennan and Rev. John H. Mulholland have been the focus of extraordinary attention. After the two priests were consulted, Cardinal Rigali has relieved them of their assignments. Until such time as a permanent, long-term plan can be determined, both priests will remain without assignments."

The archdiocese first learned of Mulholland's inclinations in 1968 when it received copies of a letter he sent to the boy he called "Man of Steel," the indictment said.

Over the next two decades, the archdiocese relocated Mulholland five times -- all to churches with schools, including Stella Maris.

In 2004, the Archdiocese Review Board cleared Mulholland of any allegations of sexual abuse and took no action against Brennan despite having written and oral documentation detailing complaints against both of them, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said the abuse was covered up by church leaders, including Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and Cardinal John Krol, who relocated priests to other parishes and ignored documents that, in many cases, indicated abuse was going on.

"How can you teach the truth when you're a liar? Even the higher officials, they all knew it and denied it and moved the priests," Pandalino said.

In addition to Brennan and Mulholland, named in the indictment are 13 priests who served in South Philly churches, schools and medical centers from 1953 to 1996. This means a quarter of the accused had local ties.

Four of the priests taught at St. John Neumann, while another five were assigned to St. Monica, 1720 Ritner St.

The Rev. Nicholas V. Cudemo, the indictment said, raped an 11-year-old girl and later helped her get an abortion; he also molested a fifth-grader in a confessional. A top aide to Cardinal Bevilacqua told the grand jury Cudemo was "one of the sickest people I ever knew." Cudemo was assigned to St. Paul's Church, 808 Hutchinson St., and taught at St. John Neumann.

The Rev. Raymond O. Leneweaver, who was assigned to St. Monica, raped a boy and, when that boy's older brother tried to tell their parents about the abuse, their father beat him "unconscious" saying, "Priests don't do that," according to the indictment. In an act of retaliation, Leneweaver brutally raped the older brother, the indictment said.

Pandalino said she feels sorriest for the victims in these cases, many of who did speak up about the abuse when it was happening, but were not believed.

"I felt so bad, especially when some of the kids came home and told their parents and they were punished by their parents for something that was true. Where do these kids go? They are stuck in a school or church with these predators," Pandalino said.

Neither Monsignor James Connolly of Stella Maris nor the Rev. Joseph Kelly of St. Monica returned several calls for this story.

Page: 1 2 3 |Next
Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend


Comments 1 - 12 of 12
Report Violation

1. emoonhead said... on Nov 22, 2008 at 07:15AM

“ Hi, my name is Ernie. I am writting this letter to you, for the fact that I want to let you know: I was an "AltarBoy" in the 70s' which lead to me being Sexually Abused! It seems to me that the Priests' watch and pick out, Who they are going to "Molest"or "Sexually Abuse" whatever you want to call it. I can tell you from experence that it Destroyed me, do to the fact that I was also drugged up by this Priest. Not only does it Destroy you, when you are Molested it "Murders' your Soul" and It makes you turn from the only One who can help you "GOD the Father"! The thing that really Kills me is the "Fact that you already knew" that these Priests' were,( how can I say this) Perverts, Gay, Let me stop there! Anyway do you get the picture Use already knew and still let them continue to Molest more children and ruine more lives. If I start to put down what this Person did to me, I be typing for at least 6:00pm. I feel bad for the ones that are still hiding in the church, like the artical said "Wolves in Sheeps close" I also understand that the "Devil himself has children too" Remember "Cain" what he did to his Brother, Remember "Judas" at the last supper! But like "Jesus" he knew that the bad was there. I Truely Hope you People with High Authority don't think you are the Lord Jesus Christ because you will be Damed. I am going to end this letter by saying these words to the Ones that are responsable just for what happened to me. May the Lord Lead you To your Greatest Good...”

Report Violation

2. Fr Dan said... on Mar 15, 2009 at 03:55AM

“Dear Ernie, it is Sunday morning and I was doing a search on the internet for a couple of textbooks when I ran across the above article and then your comment. I am a Roman Catholic priest, active in the ministry, and on behalf of the One Priesthood of Jesus Christ that I share with the priest who abused you, I wish to apologize for what was done to you. I am sorry that you had to suffer so great an evil at such a young and tender age. I am sorry you have had to suffer so much confusion and troubling doubt these past years, resulting from such a deception and betrayal of your trusting innocence and good will in the face of the priest who violated you so unjustly. Ernie, I am so sorry you suffered these things and I hope you may one day find it within yourself to know and really come to know personally how great and how tender is the Love of our God and Father for you. You have a special place in His Heart since you, not unlike His Son Jesus, have suffered such an immense violation of your dignity and innocence. Please accept my apology on behalf of the priesthood I share with the priest who harmed you. May God, our Heavenly Father, who promised never to leave us orphaned, grant you His peace, a peace the world cannot give.”

Report Violation

3. Anonymous said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 04:45PM

“Ernie, I want you to call the District Attorney in Philly, and talk to them. This is how you get sober and stay sober -- you get justice. Lynn Nichols is the Assnt. District Attorney who is head of the new South Philly DA's branch, the South Bureau Division. You can reach her at 215-686-8934.”

Report Violation

4. Bessie said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 03:38PM

“These priests should be defrocked and then put in jail. They are pure criminals. I really don't have much respect for the Catholic schools in S. Philly. I went for 8 years and graduated from Saint Monica's Business school and one of the nuns there was really rude and disrespectful towards me. One time the nun slapped my head with a piece of paper (should inspire confidence? huh?) So, I'm not too keen on Catholics or nuns or priests of the sort. I believe they have their own demons to content with. Don't want to go on and on but the society there is deeply troubled!...enough said!”

Report Violation

5. Trust said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 04:32PM

“I am going over the Court of Common Pleas Criminal Trial Division of the excerpts about the priests' abuse towards childen in the churches and I'm so sickened with what these children went through. Kids were abused in priest's bedrooms and also outside in swimming pools, Poconos and Jersey Shore???? not to mention repeated abuse over and over for some for years! One poor boy was beat by his father because his dad thought his kid was disrespecting the priest. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU! And you'll get your Karma....believe me!”

Report Violation

6. Anonymous said... on Mar 21, 2011 at 10:03PM

“one of those molesters mentioned Carman, acted like a perv to many guys when we were was talked about by all the kids...and one of our parents actually said" oh, he's a priest he would never..."
It breaks my heart that they get away with it....

Report Violation

7. Barbara said... on May 10, 2011 at 04:56AM

“they are not getting away with it...they all will answer to God on Judgement day for these terrible abuses.....”

Report Violation

8. Susan Mangigian said... on Jun 7, 2011 at 10:08AM

“I am late to this story. I read about it when Father Brennan was named a few years ago but found it so difficult to believe. Father Brennan married my sister and her husband and officiated over the funeral of a neighbor. I knew him to be a kind and dignified priest and it is with great sadness that I realize he was also something more. Obviously a very sick man who rather than be transferred to damage more children, should have been taken far from the public and gotten help. We have all read that pedophiles can not be rehabilitated and my stance on that is that they should be put in jail for life. Having known and cared for Father Brennan as a child, this breaks my heart. I pray that the children that were affected, like Ernie, get the help they need and that they can somehow find it in their hearts to forgive. Not for Father Brennan, but for themselves. Holding on to hate for Father Brennan is like drinking poison and waiting for him to get sick. God bless.”

Report Violation

9. Lois said... on Jul 19, 2011 at 06:01AM

“OMG..My children went to this school and parish...I thought Father Brennan was a wonderful, sweet man and finding out he was a lot more is sad and scary...I really feel for the children ...It breaks my heart”

Report Violation

10. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2011 at 06:54PM

“Please do not judge Fr. Brennan until you are aware of all the facts. He IS a sweet, kind, compassionate man.”

Report Violation

11. Anonymous said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 12:20PM

“I just stumbled on this site, having been lured back to this horribly disturbing topic by news of the latest pervert predator, Bill Conlin. It prompted me to look up info on former Rev. John Mulholland, the vermin predator priest who was shamelessly allowed to carry on his true vocation at numerous parishes. He showed up at mine, Holy Child, in 1978 and, despite his lurid past, was charged with CYO! After meeting him on one occasion, he immediately began practically stalking me. Praised me incessantly, begged me to become president of CYO. Eventually handed me envelopes of cash and even keys to his car, which I gladly took out on several occasions w/buddies. Once convinced me to go to his room in the rectory, where he took off his shirt and started lifting weights, as i stood to the side. My parents were "true believers" and I was another "idiot of the times," concluding that he was just some lonely, socially "marginal" wierdo. He was out hunting on parishioners' dime!!”

Report Violation

12. Anonymous said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 12:39PM

“I feel for the good, well-intentioned priests who have to bear the brunt of their colleagues sins. But the bottom line is that the Roman Catholic Church created the IDEAL oasis and conditions for would-be predators to ply their trade; celibacy, separation from society, lifetime employment, access and influence over a large group of impressionable followers, including vulnerable children, the CONFESSIONAL, for God's sake!!, and, WORST OF ALL, a sometimes complicit and too-often cowardly leadership of popes, cardinals, bishops, etc, who too-often chose to protect their own jobs/interests, rather than follow the message of their ultimate leader. Yee reap what yee sow!!!”


(HTML and URLs prohibited)

Related Content

Stella Maris priest’s past conduct to be examined
By Amanda Snyder

Along with Rev. Joseph Gallagher, the former pastor at St. Richard of Chichester, 18th and Pollock streets, a second priest with ties to the area was also named in the District Attorney’s Office Feb. 10 grand jury report.

RELATED: A wild ride

Related Content

Ex-Marconi pastor accused of abuse
By Amanda L. Snyder

The District Attorney’s Office released a grand jury report Feb. 10 that resulted in the arrests of three priests, a Catholic schoolteacher and the former Archdiocese of Philadelphia secretary of the clergy.

Related Content

Father absolved
By Joseph Myers

More than three years after his placement on administrative leave, a priest with ties to a Girard Estate parish can return to ministry.

RELATED: Cycle swiper