A 30-year-old former Marine testified in a landmark clergy abuse case Wednesday that he was a good child with a bright future until he was molested by a priest he described as a "sexual predator.''
The man described a life of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide attempts and a criminal history including robbery and fraud that defined his life after what he testified was a sexual assault by the Rev. James Brennan.
Brennan is charged with raping the man when he was a 14-year-old boy in 1996. The man, who was discharged from the Marines because of mental health issues, wept as he testified about being molested at Brennan's apartment in West Chester.
Brennan is on trial with Monsignor William Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly keeping predator priests in parish work. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Several alleged victims of clergy abuse have taken the stand since the trial began March 26, but Brennan's accuser is the first whose claim falls within the statute of limitations.
He testified Wednesday that Brennan was a family friend who frequently visited his home in suburban Philadelphia, a "drinking buddy'' of his mother, a guy who rode a motorcycle and was like a cool uncle. He described his family as devout Roman Catholics who sent their children to parochial schools and faithfully attended Sunday Mass at St. Andrew Church in Newtown, where Brennan was assigned.
"When the collar came down, he was Jim. He was one of the guys,'' the man testified.
He occasionally looked over at Brennan, who showed no emotion. He faced the jury when he described what he said happened the summer after he finished eighth grade.
He said that in the summer of 1996, Brennan took him to his apartment with a plan to watch movies in the evening and get up the next morning for a day of golfing. At the apartment, Brennan showed him online pornography, fondled himself then got into bed with him, the man testified.
"I was a little boy. I didn't know what to do,'' he said, sobbing.
Both were clothed as Brennan pressed his genitals against the boy's buttocks, according to the man's testimony.
"As soon as he laid down he put his arms around me ... and he kept squeezing me and inching forward and forward and forward,'' he testified. He remembered praying to be able to fall asleep, and said he wet himself, but does not remember anything beyond that.
Brennan's lawyers say the accuser has a history of lying and has been in trouble with the law. The accuser testified during cross-examination that he has had psychological problems and grappled with substance abuse as a result of the molestation.