Philly Abuse Case Flip-Flop? Serious Doubt Emerges in Charges Against Accused Priests

Monica Yant Kinney

Kudos to Monica Yant Kinney
at the Philadelphia Inquirer

For over a year, the media has whole-heartedly embraced and loudly trumpeted the graphic and shocking details of last year's high-profile Philadelphia grand jury report.

The report, which depicted stomach-turning allegations of depraved abuse and cover-ups by Catholic clergy, has served as the foundation for this week's highly watched trial.

The media has never so much as aired a peep of criticism or skepticism about the report or the criminal charges against the clergy – until now.

In a startling article this week at the start of the Philadelphia trial, Monica Yant Kinney at the Philadelphia Inquirer appears to be the first journalist in the United States to openly acknowledge that there may be serious credibility issues with the criminal charges in the current cases.

A lengthy, brutal rape becomes an "almost" rape?

Last year's report relayed an extremely alarming and graphic account of Fr. James Brennan anally raping a 14-year-old boy back in 1996. (It's on pages 36 and 37, if you can stomach it.)

But prosecutors are now offering something entirely different: a "sharply sanitized version" of that alleged episode, "which casts doubt on the case against Brennan."

Prosecutors are now saying that Fr. Brennan "almost raped" the accuser. "Almost"? That's certainly not the characterization in the grand jury report. The report explicitly describes a ferocious and relentless rape.

A second shocking incident of depravity – now it didn't happen?!

According to Yant Kinney, "[Fr. Brennan's lawyer has] also suggested that the victim [has] 'disavowed' a second allegation that the priest later masturbated in front of the teen in a shed at a suburban parish."

Wow. In other words, the accuser's allegation of a second incident – again thoroughly and graphically described in the grand jury report – now did not even happen!

Indeed, as we have thoroughly chronicled, Fr. Brennan's accuser has major credibility issues. The accuser, now a 30-year-old grown man, has a very extensive criminal record of fraud, which even includes a disconcerting episode of filing a false police report.

In addition – and most notably – prosecutors have downgraded the charges against Fr. Brennan to the lesser crimes of "attempted rape," "child endangerment," and "conspiracy."

The grand jury report: A concocted piece of sensationalism?

Last year's report became a useful and powerful tool for many to bludgeon the Catholic Church and portray it in the most sinister and corrupt light.

As Yant Kinney notes, the report was universally embraced "as a matter of deeply researched fact."

Now that the trial has begun, however, this same journalist now sees that the report appears to have morphed into "a florid draft goosed for dramatic effect."

"Both the civil and criminal cases against Brennan arose from the 2011 grand jury report, which allowed [Philadelphia] D.A. Seth Williams to make history, since [Msgr. William] Lynn is the highest-ranking church official in America to date to face charges of inaction and cover-up.

"At the time, the blistering document was taken as a matter of deeply researched fact.

"Monday, Williams wasn't even in the courtroom for the case of a lifetime. And now, the 2011 report reads in part like a florid draft goosed for dramatic effect.

"If the victim wasn't raped, why declare that he was? Why overreach when even basic allegations – a priest showing pornography to a boy – are criminal enough?"

These are all excellent observations by Yant Kinney.

It would be nice to see other journalists take Yant Kinney's approach and finally begin to adopt a more critical look at the charges being leveled in Philadelphia.

Truth, justice, and men's lives are at stake.